Maria is a hurricane again, bringing high winds and storm surge to the mid-Atlantic
Maria is once again a hurricane with winds of 75 mph after being downgraded earlier to a tropical storm.
And according to the National Hurricane Center's 2 p.m. update, the cyclone continues to move to the north-northeast at 6 mph. The closest the storm got to the coast was about 150 miles to the east of Cape Hatteras.
Maria was able to strengthen slightly because it has been moving slowly over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, enabling the storm to fight off the cyclone-killing effects of wind shear and dry air.
Although it's moving away from the coast, the storm will continue to cause high surf and dangerous rip currents along much of the eastern seaboard, and produce some tidal flooding in South Hampton Roads.
As winds start to shift more to the northwest, the Outer Banks will start to see more flooding from the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds than from the ocean. High tide was at 1:30 p.m. and there was no reported further breaching of N.C. 12.
Water several inches deep covered N.C. 12 for a quarter mile near Frisco during the morning high tide time.
Water stood on N.C. 12 in Rodanthe and Avon, but it was passable even at the midday high tide. Road crews used heavy equipment to clear sand just north of Rodanthe and drop it back onto the dunes.
"We did not lose any roadway," said Drew Pearson, emergency management director for Dare County. "N.C. 12 is in halfway decent condition."
The hurricane's turn out to sea should alleviate much of the wind pushing the tide so high, said Tim Haas, spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
"Hopefully it will get out of here," he said.
Caroline Antomuk of Quebec, Canada, tanned in the sporadic sunshine next to the pool at the Cape Pines Motel in Buxton.
She relaxed in a swimsuit even as the wind bent the limbs of the live oak next to the fence around the pool.
"It's nice to be outside," she said. "I could see the storm was not going to directly hit."
Antomuk was camping at the Frisco Campground until the winds grew too strong for her tent, and took shelter at the motel. She plans to return to her tent Friday, after the storm passes.
John and Tara Taber of Buxton watched the roiling surf crash ashore near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The place is a favorite among surfers, including John Taber.
But not Wednesday. No one was surfing. There were too many dangerous conditions. Powerful rip currents flowed beneath the surface and waves broke unpredictably different distances from shore.
"It's all over the place," he said. "I know my limits."
There was up to 8 inches of standing water on N.C. 12 in some places, including within Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Avon, Frisco and Hatteras Village, Pearson said.
Conditions could be worse, but Maria will not be a rain event. The majority of the cyclone's storm activity is on its eastern side way from land. Forecasters called for less than an inch of rain Wednesday. Winds along the coast were forecast to be anywhere from 20 to 30 mph, with some gusts up to 50 mph.
Soundside flooding in Ocracoke Village rose to about 3 feet in the usual low spots, said Chip Stevens, owner of Blackbeard's Lodge. Ocean overwash breached the dunes and threatened the road near the north ferry docks, he said.
"Luckily, the winds are not so bad right now," Stevens said Wednesday morning. "It's wait-and-see."
Tropical storm warnings remained in effect from Bogue Island north to the Virginia-North Carolina border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. The warnings likely will be lifted late Wednesday as Maria picked up speed on its journey out to sea. There was a storm surge warning from Ocracoke Inlet to Cape Hatteras.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Lee has become the fifth major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic season. The hurricane center said Lee's winds have increased to 115 mph, and the Category 3 storm is moving northwest at 7 mph. Lee is several hundred miles east of Bermuda. ___
This article is written by Lee Tolliver from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.