Seotember 9, 2007
Tropical Storm Gabrielle closed in on North Carolina's Outer Banks on Sunday, packing 50 mph winds and plenty of rain, but not enough of a threat to scare vacationers from the shore and surfers from the beach.
"It's a lot rougher out there, but this what we look forward to every year," said Derek Creekmore, 32, of Chesapeake, Va., as he carried his surfboard into tall, breaking waves near Cape Hatteras. "We plan to stay out here until we get tired."
Gabrielle strengthened slightly - though not to hurricane level - as it moved toward a midday landfall Sunday between Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. After a brief landfall over state's famous chain of barrier islands and Pamlico Sound, Gabrielle was expected to take a sharp turn back into the Atlantic.
As of 12 p.m., Gabrielle's center was crossing the North Carolina border, northeast of Cape Lookout and was moving about 10 mph to the north. The storm had maximum sustained winds of close to 50 mph, with stronger gusts over a small area close to its center.
"People are taking elementary precautions," said Robert Raborn, the dockmaster at Anchorage Marina on Ocracoke Island.
Forecasters issued a tropical storm warning for the North Carolina coastline north of Surf City through the Outer Banks and to the Virginia border. A tropical storm warning was also issued northward to Cape Charles Light, Va., along the Atlantic Coast, and a watch remains in effect for the area extending to New Point Comfort peninsula, along the Chesapeake Bay.
Gabrielle's first showers reached the coastline late Saturday night. Forecasters said the storm could produce a storm surge of up to 3 feet, with 1 to 3 inches of rain falling in coastal areas and up to 5 inches in isolated spots.
The rain will be welcome in North Carolina, where all 100 counties are facing drought conditions, 91 in a severe drought or worse. Easley asked Friday that the state's local governments immediately enact voluntary or mandatory water restrictions.