Arthur minor inconvenience to beaches south of Outer Banks

aspecht@newsobserver.comJuly 4, 2014 

— Douglas Godette preferred to spend July Fourth in his backyard cooking burgers rather than in his front yard dragging stray tree limbs to the street.

The national holiday is also his birthday.

“I was gonna have a party,” the 59-year-old Beaufort man said. “I guess we’ll be cleaning up instead.”

Hurricane Arthur entered the Onslow Bay area in the wee hours of Friday morning, leaving 15,000 North Carolinians – including Godette – temporarily without electricity. But, other than a few stray branches and shingles, the area was largely intact when the sun rose on the three-day weekend.

“It was not as bad as we thought it would be,” Duke Energy’s Lee Freedman said as he fixed a power line in Beaufort early Friday morning.

For many beachgoers, the Category 2 hurricane turned out to be a minor inconvenience. Businesses, however, may have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the storm.

Many restaurants closed early Thursday night, and fewer tourists were around to eat and shop Friday morning.

“It will probably cost us 25 percent of what we normally make (on July Fourth),” said Yaron Itsikzon, owner of the Paradise Beach Shop in Atlantic Beach. He declined to say how much money his business normally makes on July Fourth.

The shop, which sells bright T-shirts and temporary tattoos, is usually busiest between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. when tourists stop by on their way to the beach.

On Friday, the flow of customers didn't start picking up until shortly after noon.

“It’s getting a little better, but we’re definitely going to take a hit,” he said.

Because of the storm, fewer tourists stayed at the Oceana Family Resort on Atlantic Beach, said Desiree Coca, manager of the beachfront resort.

“We had some cancellations ... and were maybe only two-thirds full last night,” she said.

But the crowds came quickly. “We’re booked up again tonight,” Coca said.

By midmorning, Atlantic Beach was playing host to a volleyball game, children boogie-boarding and hundreds of people lying on the beach.

Jason Fly hoped to be there soon. He stayed in Rocky Mount on Thursday night to avoid the storm and drove to Atlantic Beach Friday morning. He had hoped to come Thursday but wasn’t too upset about the delay.

“I'm glad it wasn’t worse,” he said while unloading a cooler from a U-Haul trailer.

Brian Fowler and his family were already on the water by 10:30 in the morning. They were loading a dinghy into Taylor Creek, where Fowler had left it anchored overnight. The wind carried a couple of sailboats ashore downstream, but Fowler’s escaped without damage.

If the hurricane hadn’t forced a change of plans, the family would have continued the family tradition of riding from Beaufort to Cape Lookout on the holiday.

“We’ll just plan on doing that tomorrow,” Fowler said.

Back at Atlantic Beach, the Lambrechts and their college-age kids hit the beach by midmorning after a night of listening to the wind howl outside their nearby rental house.

After the power went out and the house warmed up, “it went from a nice vacation to more like a camping trip,” Paul Lambrecht said.

A few feet away, Skylar Maxwell and Reagan Jones kicked off their sandals and headed to the water with their boogie boards. The group from Raleigh waited out the storm in Newport overnight, said Lana Jones, Reagan’s mom.

“They’ve had their swimsuits on since about 8:30 this morning,” she said.

Once the sun was up and the roads were clear, Jones’ friend Kim Perkins said, “We were coming (to the beach) come hell or high water.”

Specht: 919-829-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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