KILL DEVIL HILLS — North Carolina’s popular beach towns began returning to the business of recreation today, after Arthur lashed the state’s coast with forceful winds and heavy rain and then churned northward without leaving a trail of significant damage.
Arthur was downgraded to a tropical storm early today, but the storm’s near-hurricane strength winds slammed into Canada’s maritime provinces, causing 113,000 customers of Nova Scotia Power to lose electricity. The utility in New Brunswick reported 86,000 outages. The storm has caused flight cancellations and delays at the region’s largest airport in Halifax.
New England was largely spared from damage spawned by the storm, but some 19,000 people in Maine and 1,600 in Vermont were without power after high winds and heavy rains pounded the region. There were reports of localized flooding in coastal areas of Massachusetts and the Nova Star Ferry suspended service Friday and this morning because of dangerous seas. No injuries or deaths have been reported.
The hurricane’s effects in North Carolina were mostly confined to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, and some vacationers were already back on beaches to the north and south on Friday. But the ocean churned by Arthur remained dangerous today with the risk of rip currents able to wash the strongest swimmer to sea. That didn’t stop thousands of people from enjoying the sun and sand and leaving lifeguards to remind beach-goers of the danger.
“We’re going to try to keep people out of the water and keep them safe,” said David Elder, lifeguard supervisor for the town of Kill Devil Hills. “However, if conditions abate, I’d be glad to drop” the no-swimming warning. More than 600 of the 700 lifeguard rescues by Elder’s department last year were required because of rip currents, he said.
Permanent residents of island towns stretching from Rodanthe to Hatteras were allowed to return, along with employees of businesses that need to get ready to accommodate arriving tourists onto the island closed to arrivals since early Thursday.
The only road onto Hatteras Island was reopened to residents and brought the imminent promise of renewed tourism. A small section of fragile North Carolina Highway 12 buckled after being submerged by churning waters during the Category 2 hurricane. Officials also tested the two-mile-long Bonner Bridge onto the island to ensure it was safe for traffic.
Local authorities aren’t saying when vacationers can return to the island, which suffered extensive flooding in some areas. Many vacationers were due to start their weeklong cottage rentals today.
Farther south, Ocracoke Island’s electricity distribution system was badly damaged by Arthur, leading officials to order residents to quit using air conditioners and water heaters so that generator-supplied power could provide refrigeration and other necessities during a cycle of planned outages. A nightly curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. was declared until power was fully restored. Vacationers were being coaxed to leave with the offer of free ferry rides out.
Parts of Rodanthe and Salvo were flooded on Friday across nearly the entire width of Hatteras Island from the ocean to the sound. Trailers toppled in campgrounds where they were left, pictures from a Coast Guard helicopter that flew over the island showed.
Josh Fiscus was still cleaning up the mess at his Salvo home today.
“We had about two feet of water here in my garage,” he said.
Jackson Whitley, 14, was back to another day of picking up wind-blown debris and fallen tree limbs from around his family’s Buxton home much as he did Friday. Apart from the lack of normal summertime crowds, he said streets were pretty much back to normal.
Linda Savage, 65, said she and a neighbor collected a small refrigerator and a trash can with lid intact left behind by flood waters about three feet deep. The flooding rose almost to the front door of her Salvo home without seeping inside, but Arthur’s winds of almost 100 mph caused other damage.
“I lost a tremendous amount of shingles from my roof,” Savage said.
She planned to shop for groceries today, and hoped the cable television and Internet would be restored soon.