WAVES, N.C. — The Latest on Tropical Storm Maria (all times local):
The National Hurricane Center says Maria has regained strength and become a hurricane once again as it lingers off the coast of North Carolina.
Reports from an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft indicate that Maria’s top sustained winds are near 75 mph (120 kmh), with higher gusts.
The center of Hurricane Maria is about 165 miles (265 kilometers) off Cape Hatteras, and hurricane-force winds remain offshore, extending outward up to 105 miles (165 kilometers). But tropical storm-force winds extend for as much as 230 miles (370 kilometers) from the center, covering the water on both sides of the narrow barrier islands of Hatteras and Ocracoke.
Maria’s forward speed is just 6 mph (9 kph), so the storm is taking its time to swing north and away from the U.S. Atlantic coast.
Standing near the closed fishing pier in the unincorporated community of Avon, Tony Meekins said anything is possible when it comes to Maria’s effect on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
The 55-year-old lifelong Avon resident said the dune line along much of this part of Hatteras Island is gone, pounded down by previous storms.
The Atlantic has been washing under waterfront homes and onto side streets since Tuesday at high tide in parts of Avon.
“Mother Nature keeps chopping at it,” said Meekins, an engineer on the temporarily halted Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry. “We see storm after storm.”
He hopes dune restoration projects that are underway in Buxton to the south will eventually make their way to Avon.
Whatever happens he said, “we’ll rebuild and carry on. It’s just the way it goes. We’re kind of used to it.”
Winds and storm surge from Tropical Storm Maria are lashing North Carolina’s Outer Banks as the storm moves by well off-shore.
Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson said in an email that the high tide early Wednesday flooded some roads in the area and travel is hazardous. Pearson said the worst problems were on Hatteras Island. More than 10,000 visitors left Hatteras Island under an evacuation order earlier this week.
Pearson said no injuries have been reported.
The ocean has washed over parts of N.C. 12, the main road running along the Outer Banks.
At 8 a.m., Maria was about 155 miles (250 kilometers)east of Cape Hatteras, moving north at just 5 mph (8 kph.) Highest winds were 70 mph (112 kph). Wind gusts of 55 mph (88 mph) have been reported at Oregon Inlet, south of Nags Head.
Tropical Storm Maria is bringing winds of 55 mph (88 kph) to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, along with storm surge washing over the main highway along the barrier islands.
The National Weather Service reported Wednesday those wind gusts were highest in Oregon Inlet south of Nags Head.
“The ocean is angry,” Helena Stevens with the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association told the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk.
The water was washing across sections of N.C. 12, the main road running the length of the barrier islands.
The North Carolina Ferry Division said all ferries in the Pamlico Sound were suspended Wednesday because of the storm conditions. Officials estimate more than 10,000 visitors evacuated Ocracoke and Hatteras islands.
Schools were closed in Dare County on the Outer Banks for a second day.
Some of the most fragile islands in the continental United States are preparing for the latest strike from this year’s devastating hurricane season.
The North Carolina Outer Banks were only getting a glancing blow as weakening Tropical Storm Maria was forecast to move about 150 miles (240 kilometers) offshore Wednesday. But officials warned that severe beach erosion was likely there and along many other mid-Atlantic beaches.
Officials say Maria is predicted to erode more than half the dunes along North Carolina’s 300-mile (485-kilometer) coast. Beaches in Maryland and Virginia could fare even worse.
This hurricane season has been even harder on Texas, Florida, several small Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico, where officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month.