Tropical Storm Gabrielle sets eye on eastern N.C.

Published 11:18 pm Sunday, September 9, 2007

By Staff
Ocracoke braces for strong winds
From staff, wire reports
North Carolina’s Outer Banks began bracing Saturday for Tropical Storm Gabrielle, which forecasters said could strike the barrier islands with winds of up to 50 miles per hour today.
On Saturday, the National Park Service temporarily closed all campgrounds on the Cape Hatters National Seashore, which includes Ocracoke.
Gabrielle changed from a subtropical storm to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon.
Hyde County, state and federal agencies continue to monitor the storm, which was listed as a subtropical storm Saturday evening. To prepare for the storm, the Ocracoke Control Group met Saturday morning, according to a press release from the Hyde County Emergency Management office on mainland Hyde County.
Hyde County emergency-management officials, including Tony Spencer, emergency-management coordinator, advise Hyde County residents and visitors to closely monitor Gabrielle. The storm could result in ferry services being interrupted today and/or Monday.
People who could not afford to be stranded and those with medical conditions of concern were advised to make plans to depart Saturday afternoon, the release advised. “Should flooding occur, please do not drive (in) or (walk in) flood waters as (they are) extremely dangerous,” the release said.
Along the coastline of the Carolinas on Saturday, residents prepared for rain and possible flooding.
The National Hurricane Center forecast called for Gabrielle to brush North Carolina’s Outer Banks this afternoon before curving back out into the Atlantic. Forecasters don’t expect the storm to become a hurricane.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, Gabrielle had top sustained winds near 40 mph and was centered about 185 miles southeast of Cape Lookout, and moving northwest about 8 mph.
Forecasters discontinued a tropical storm watch from Surf City south to Cape Fear. But an alert remained in force for the North Carolina coastline north of Surf City through the Outer Banks and to the Virginia border.
Gabrielle formed along an old frontal boundary that stalled about midway between the Southeast coast and Bermuda, drawing the attention of coastal residents for the past few days. It finally spun into a storm late Friday evening.
Officials urged residents and visitors to the Outer Banks, a popular beach vacation spot, to get ready for the storm by securing loose items outside their homes and to remain indoors as the storm blows through.
Gabrielle had formed as a subtropical storm, which is a hybrid system and typically weaker than hurricanes. They share the characteristics of tropical storms, which get their power from the warm ocean, as well as storms that form when warm and cold fronts collide.
Forecasters said Gabrielle could bring between 1 and 3 inches of rain to eastern North Carolina with some areas receiving as much as 5 inches.
The rain will be welcome in the parched Carolinas. Of North Carolina’s 100 counties, seven are in exceptional drought, 66 are in extreme drought, 20 are in severe drought and seven are in moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Easley asked Friday that all of the state’s local governments to immediately enact voluntary or mandatory water restrictions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.