Beaufort County officials expect low impact from Maria

Published 6:04 pm Monday, September 25, 2017

North Carolina’s coast is bracing for a sideswipe from Hurricane Maria, but Beaufort County is expected to remain relatively unscathed.

The National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning for much of eastern N.C. on Monday, including Tyrrell, Dare, Carteret and Hyde counties. Beaufort County and surrounding waters, however, remained under a tropical storm watch as of Monday evening.

A warning means tropical storm conditions are expected within the next two to three days, while a watch means these conditions could possibly occur.

Hurricane Maria, now a category 1 storm, is expected to stay about 150 miles to the east of the N.C. coast today and tomorrow; however, its outer bands will swipe past the coast. Officials continue to monitor the possibility of storm surge and high winds in coastal areas.

Hyde County issued a mandatory evacuation at 5 a.m. Monday for visitors to Ocracoke Island and declared a state of emergency. Hatteras Island issued a similar evacuation.

“Due to the temporary fortification in place after Jose on Hwy 12, impacts may occur in advance of the storm. We recommend starting your evacuation as soon as possible and utilizing the sound route ferries when evacuating,” a press release stated. “Based on current forecast holds, wind speeds could cause the suspension of ferry services early Tuesday morning.”

Chris Newkirk, director of Beaufort County Emergency Services, said the main point of impact in this county will be higher wind gusts. Most of Beaufort County can expect to see maximum sustained winds of 15-25 mph through Thursday, but eastern areas could see higher gusts, according to Newkirk.

Rainfall is predicted to stay at a minimum, as well, according to the latest forecasts.

“In the grand scheme of things, we are still looking very favorable,” Newkirk said. “We’re not going to see any sustained winds that are in the tropical storm-force range.”

The higher winds blowing in from the north will cause a rise in water level along the shorelines in Beaufort County. Newkirk said residents in these areas could see the level rise an average of 1-2 feet.

“Most of those areas are already at that mark,” he said. “The biggest impact that we’re going to have from this storm is just the wind-driven inundation of water along some of our rivers and creeks and part of our shoreline.”

The State Emergency Operations Center was activated Monday to assist coastal areas. Beaufort County Emergency Management remains at the ready and will continue to watch Maria for any changes.

“Right now, we’re very much in just a monitoring-type phase and seeing how things go. Once again, we’ve come out very favorable on the end of a tropical storm,” Newkirk said.