Category 2 Hurricane Arthur pummeling coastal sounds, Outer Banks

akenney@newsobserver.com ablythe@newsobserver.comJuly 3, 2014 

  • Storm preparation tips

    • Keep an emergency kit, including batteries, flashlights, a portable radio, water, a first-aid kit and nonperishable food that doesn’t need to be cooked.

    • Fuel vehicles and secure important documents in case of evacuation.

    • Charge phones ahead of time.

    • Prepare to protect homes with lumber or shutters. Clear debris and park vehicles in garages.

    • During the storm, stay inside and away from windows. Do not go outside in high winds.

    • Watch for downed power lines.

  • Tips for a hurricane’s aftermath

    Power outages

    • Duke Energy customers should report outages to 800-769-3766 or online at http://www.duke-energy.com/north-carolina/outages.asp, or via smartphones at the company’s mobile website at m.duke-energy.com.

    • Duke Energy posts outage information at http://outagemap.duke-energy.com/ncsc/default.html.

    • N.C. Electric Membership Corp. customers should call the co-op that serves their area to report outages.

    Power tips

    • If the power goes out, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Food usually stays frozen 48 hours. A refrigerator that isn’t running can keep food cold about four hours.

    • Do not connect a generator directly to your home’s electrical system. Follow manufacturer’s directions to connect appliances directly to your generator.

    • Avoid downed power lines and trees entangled in power lines.

    • Check for electrical damage inside your home: frayed wires, sparks or the smell of burning insulation. If you find damage, do not turn your power on until an electrician inspects your system.

    If you need a place to stay

    • Residents and travelers displaced by Hurricane Arthur can find information about the storm and hotels at www.visitnc.com.

    Precautions

    • Watch out for debris-filled streets and weakened bridges.

    • Remember that snakes and insects can be a problem after storms.

    • Boil water to drink until local officials say the water supply is safe.

    • The state’s price gouging law is in effect. Charging an unreasonably excessive amount in a time of crisis is against North Carolina law when a disaster is declared by the governor.

    • Don’t pay upfront for repair work. Some contractors may require a “reasonable” down payment, but insist on a written contract that details the work to be performed, the cost and a projected completion date. Pay with a check or credit card, not cash.

    • Beware of anyone who promises a “guaranteed” loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, especially if an upfront payment is required. (FEMA doesn’t charge a loan application fee.) Verify the credentials of anyone offering low-interest government loans by contacting the agency involved.

    • Beware of a contractor who knocks on your door soliciting work. Ask for recommendations from people you know.

    • Whenever possible, obtain three written estimates for repair work and compare them. Check whether any complaints have been filed against contractors with the attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau.

    • Report a scam or fraud by calling the attorney general’s office at 877-566-7226 or by filing a complaint on the AG’s website, www.ncdoj.gov/.

    Insurance

    • Report claims promptly because adjusters handle them on first come, first served basis.

    • Once it’s reported, get your claim number and write it down.

    • Keep records of all contacts with your insurer, listing date, time and brief description of exchange.

    • If you have questions, contact the N.C. Department of Insurance at 800-546-5664 or 919-807-6750. Visit www.ncdoi.com.

EDITORS' NOTE: This article is no longer being updated. Find the latest coverage of Tropical Storm Arthur by clicking here.

Hurricane Arthur is moving across the coastal sounds and Outer Banks of North Carolina this morning with speed and power, bringing tidal surge, winds of 100 mph, heavy rain, flooding and power outages to an area usually having one of its best days on the Fourth of July.

Arthur made landfall late Thursday near Cape Lookout as a strong Category 2 storm, pushing waves of three to five feet onto the barrier islands and across Pamlico Sound.

The National Hurricane Center said Arthur is the earliest hurricane to hit North Carolina since records began in 1851. The previous record was July 11, 1901.

While early predictions had suggested that Arthur would give the state only a glancing blow, its track shifted farther to the west as it approached, with the storm center passing early this morning on the inland side of Cape Hatteras.

With those changes, Gov. Pat McCrory warned Thursday evening about a heightened risk of inland flooding.

“We did not expect this western movement four or five hours ago,” McCrory told reporters in Raleigh. “Now we have concerns about people inland who may be impacted by potential flooding of rivers going over their banks.”

Hurricane-force winds extended as much as 35 miles inland, and much of the coast is at risk of storm-surge flooding of several feet.

McCrory also said 11 counties had declared a state of emergency and 14 shelters were open. Emergency officials will be evaluating the damage this morning, including any at the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet in Dare County. The bridge has been closed for the duration of the storm.

As of 4 a.m., there were no reports of injuries from the storm.

McCrory said he had heard "some positive things" about southern portions of North Carolina's coast, as the hurricane passed offshore during low tide, but he warned people across the entire coastal area to continue to exercise caution. He also thanked emergency responders who have been preparing for the storm.

Arthur narrowly missed Wilmington at 8 p.m. Thursday. In Morehead City, the storm's eye loomed about 40 miles south at 10 p.m., but the weather had been surprisingly calm until about 9:30. Wind and rain had been sporadic all day, but the wind increased late Thursday, with trees dancing at a moderate pace and a big trash bin taking flight. Power was still on, though many restaurants had closed early.

By 4 a.m. Friday morning, Arthur's center was heading into Albemarle Sound, poised to make a second landfall on the sound side of the northern Outer Banks. It was moving northeast at 25 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Advance advisories were posted all the way into eastern Canada, but Arthur is expected to weaken and become a post-tropical system before it gets there.

Hurricane-force winds extended about 40 miles from the storm's eye, according to the NWS, with a continued risk for storm surge, rip currents and 4 to 6 inches of rain for parts of the Outer Banks.

There also were sporadic tornado warnings inland as Arthur's arms sprawled across the eastern half of the state, sending bands of stormy weather west and north. A tornado was confirmed Thursday in Duplin County and a funnel cloud was spotted near Elm City.

By 1 a.m. Friday, Duke Energy had reported about 16,500 customers without power in Carteret County, with about another 1,000 outages in both Craven and New Hanover counties. Tideland EMC was reporting more than 2,000 outages in Pamlico, Hyde and Craven counties.

Some left, some stayed

The evacuation orders prompted Outer Banks visitors to weigh the time and money invested in their vacations against the worrisome wind-speed predictions.

“We don’t know anything about hurricanes — I mean we’re from Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” said Beth Berger, 46, who abandoned a weeklong house rental on Hatteras Island.

In the Outer Banks, evacuation efforts ended Thursday with the shutdown of Pamlico Sound ferries. Business owners on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands feared that Arthur will be the worst of the recent years’ setbacks.

For Outer Banks residents, the hurricane’s path across Pamlico Sound brought dread and deja vu.

“This is a badly needed weekend for the businesses here. For three straight years, we’ve lost the entire fall season,” said Carol Dawson, who owns two motels and a store at the Hatteras Island village of Buxton.

In recent years, hurricanes Irene and Sandy and problems with Bonner Bridge have cut off N.C. 12, the mainland link to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

The presence of 100-mph winds whipping water through the sound meant that both the channel routes of the Pamlico Sound ferry boats and low-lying N.C. 12 to Hatteras could be washed away.

Anticipating damage, the state government parked an array of heavy equipment along the coast and prepared a sonar boat to examine the aging Bonner Bridge after the storm.

Countless tourism dollars probably ride on the results of that check and on early ferry runs and power-line repairs.

An early hurricane

The coast hasn’t seen such an early hurricane in recent history.

“Happening in early July, at the heart of the season, that could be devastating economically,” said Scott Leggat, vice president of Seaside Vacations and a longtime Hatteras resident.

“It’s a weird hurricane,” said Lee Gallagher, the bartender at Backstreet Pub in Beaufort, the seat of Carteret County, not far from the storm’s expected landfall. “Usually we have more warning, hearing about it as it rises up. … This time it was sudden.”

Mixed responses

State and federal authorities talked up the storm’s threat beforehand, deploying hundreds of workers and a small National Guard force to help victims of the storm and to clean up its aftermath.

Arthur also brought several evacuations around the coast, particularly Pamlico Sound – to mixed results, as always.

Ocracoke Island saw up to 4,300 people, roughly half its summertime population, depart by ferry on Wednesday and Thursday. The voluntary evacuation selected by Hyde County commissioners made it easier for some people to stay.

“It’s very, very busy,” said Tommy Hutcherson, whose family owns the Ocracoke Variety Store. “There’s a lot of people still on the island.”

Hatteras Island, under mandatory evacuation, also saw droves depart. Beth Berger and her husband, the Wisconsin visitors, pulled their truck into steady traffic along N.C. 12 at 4 a.m. Thursday.

“This morning, you couldn’t have made a left-hand turn onto N.C. 12,” said Leggat.

Campers evacuated

Among those leaving coastal areas were about 1,600 campers at Camp Seafarer and Camp Sea Gull in Arapahoe. Seeing Arthur coming, the YMCA-run camps began to make plans for scores of charter buses to transport kids and staff alike to Wake County buildings owned by the school system.

“They think of every little detail – food, entertainment, what are they going to do tonight,” said Jennifer Nelson, a spokeswoman for YMCA of the Triangle. “It’s not something that’s happening overnight.”

For the campers, along with about 300 staffers, it was set to be something of an adventure.

At Buxton, Dawson had to ask guests from nearly 70 of her motel units to leave Thursday morning.

“We basically lost the whole weekend,” Dawson said. She tallied the potential damage to her businesses at $40,000, depending on the storm’s effects.

She said the state and federal governments have been too lax in caring for island roads and beaches, leaving the Outer Banks vulnerable to heavy economic damage.

“It does wear on you, but this is where you’re at,” said Hutcherson, who agrees that the past few years have been particularly rough.

Dawson estimated that at least 30 Hatteras Island businesses, many with long tenures, have closed in the past few years.

“It’s devastating. I don’t even know another word,” she said wearily, watching the beach from her store on Thursday afternoon.

“The money that people were counting on this weekend is going to make the difference between people surviving and not surviving, this weekend,” Dawson said. “Almost – we feel like it’s this dark cloud over us.”

Staff writers Ron Gallagher and Paul A. Specht contributed to this report.


Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC

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