WAVES, N.C. — The Latest on Maria (all times local):
North Carolina’s Outer Banks are reopening to tourists after Hurricane Maria brushed past the barrier islands and caused some coastal flooding.
Hyde County spokesman Donnie Shumate said in a statement that Ocracoke Island’s evacuation order was lifted at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Ferries to Ocracoke from Cedar Island and Swan Quarter are back in service. The ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke will start running again at 1 p.m.
The Dare County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that Hatteras Island will reopen to visitors at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Some 10,000 people were ordered off the islands as Maria churned offshore.
The storm pushed water onto the narrow islands from both the Atlantic and the Pamlico Sound, flooding side streets and several stretches of the main highway.
The Trump administration is announcing it will waive federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday on Twitter that President Donald Trump had “authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico.” She said Trump was responding to a request from the governor and it “will go into effect immediately.”
The Jones Act is a little-known federal law that prohibits foreign-flagged ships from shuttling goods between U.S. ports. Republicans and Democrats have pushed Trump to waive the Jones Act, saying it could help get desperately needed supplies delivered to the island more quickly and at less cost.
Officials in North Carolina hope to make a decision soon on lifting the evacuation order imposed on two islands in the Outer Banks as Hurricane Maria approached.
The storm was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday morning.
Officials in Dare and Hyde counties hoped to be able to make a decision Thursday on lifting the evacuation order imposed for visitors Monday as the storm approached. County officials said they would consult with North Carolina transportation officials before making the decision to restore access to Hatteras Island in Dare County and Ocracoke Island in Hyde County.
Officials said more than 10,000 visitors evacuated to avoid the storm, which washed over sand dunes and N.C. Highway 12, the main road on the Outer Banks.
No serious injuries have been reported.
Maria has weakened to a tropical storm as it moves out to sea in the Atlantic.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds decreased Thursday morning to near 70 mph (110 kph) with little change in strength expected over the next two days.
Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and lashed North Carolina’s Outer Banks with high water, is centered about 275 miles (440 kilometers) east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and is moving east-northeast at 8 mph (13 kph).
In North Carolina, officials expected conditions to improve quickly on the Outer Banks as Maria races east, so schools can reopen, sand can be removed from roads and the ferries that provide access to Ocracoke Island can begin running again.
Maria is finally racing east in the Atlantic, giving the United States and the Caribbean a rest from the constant threat of tropical weather for more than a month.
No injuries have been reported on the U.S. mainland with Maria. The storm mainly lashed North Carolina’s fragile Outer Banks, with high water and waves pounding the islands from both sides.
Officials say the water at times washed over the only highway connecting Hatteras Island to the mainland.
Officials expected conditions to improve quickly Thursday on the Outer Banks as Maria raced east, so schools could reopen, sand could be removed from roads and the ferries that provide access to Ocracoke Island can begin running again.