Tropical Storm Hermine swept through North Carolina late Friday and early Saturday, leaving light damage in the Triangle but causing one death and closing bridges in the Outer Banks as the system’s center moved out of the state and over the Atlantic Ocean.
Two vehicle collisions, one of them fatal, prompted authorities in Dare County to close the U.S. 64 bridge over the Alligator River and the Virginia Dare Bridge. County officials urged motorists to stay off roads because of high winds, and a tornado was reported to have injured four people.
Both bridges reopened Saturday evening.
Central North Carolina largely avoided flooding when Hermine passed through overnight Friday. The towns between Raleigh and Goldsboro received 1 to 4 inches of rain, according to Mike Moneypenny, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Raleigh.
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“The fact that it was spread out over a long time was our saving grace and why we didn’t get much flooding,” Moneypenny said. Crabtree Creek, the waterway near Crabtree Valley Mall that often overflows, was “not even close” to flooding, he said.
Hermine’s wind strength stayed around 35 mph, with the exception of a few 45 mph gusts, he said. By 9 a.m., Duke Energy restored power to all but 106 of the 1,200 Wake County households that lost power overnight.
“We had trees down here and there, but there weren’t large swaths of them,” Moneypenny said. “For the most part, the winds were brisk but they weren’t strong – nothing like a severe thunderstorm.”
Hermine made its way early Saturday to the Atlantic Ocean, where it intensified.
At about 5 p.m. Saturday, the storm was centered about 175 miles east-southeast of Norfolk, Virginia, with top sustained winds of 70 mph, moving east-northeast at 12 mph.
Forecasters expected Hermine to regain hurricane force Sunday as it travels up the coast before weakening again to a tropical storm by Tuesday.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect as far north as Connecticut, and beaches were closed as far north as New York.
In eastern North Carolina, one death Saturday was attributed to the storm, bringing the toll from Hermine to two, after a man in Florida was killed by a falling tree.
Authorities in North Carolina said high winds from Hermine caused an 18-wheeler to crash on a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, killing the driver.
Tyrell County Sheriff Darryl Liverman told The Virginian-Pilot that the winds tipped the truck as it crossed the U.S. Highway 64 bridge over the Alligator River about 9:45 a.m. Saturday.
The span was closed for hours Saturday as crews working to clear the bridge were hampered by weather conditions, Dare officials said.
The nearly 3-mile long bridge is the main link from the North Carolina mainland to the Outer Banks.
Dare officials reported that a tornado touched down at a campground in Hatteras Village, and four people were taken to the Avon Medical Clinic with minor injuries.
Hermine poured 3 to 6 inches of rain on the area between Goldsboro and the coast, with up to 10 inches of rain in isolated areas along the Outer Banks, said Rich Bandy, an NWS meteorologist based in Morehead City. His office received reports of flash flooding near Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, wind gusts reached almost 70 mph in Carteret County.
“There was definitely some damage to residential areas out near Marshallberg,” Bandy said, referring to the town north of Harkers Island.
Gov. Pat McCrory commended residents for staying off the roads Friday night, as the number of crashes reported to the Highway Patrol was about half of what the agency typically responds to on a Friday night.
As Hermine’s bands moved out of the state Saturday, he urged drivers to be careful on the roads – especially at the coast.
Several roads were closed because of flooding, including N.C. 53 near Jacksonville, N.C. 210 at Topsail Beach near Casha Road and N.C. 133 in Boiling Spring Lakes near Funston Road. The storm sent water over N.C. 12, the only road connecting Hatteras Island to the mainland. Officials warned there was still standing water on parts of the highway.
“Since the biggest result has been flooding, if you come across flooded roads, turn around; it’s not worth risking your safety,” McCrory said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.