Gabrielle Washes Ashore In North Carolina, But Doesn't Do Much Damage

Sunday, September 9th 2007, 7:09 pm
By: News On 6

HATTERAS, N.C. (AP) _ Tropical Storm Gabrielle washed ashore and crawled slowly along the North Carolina's Outer Banks Sunday, but caused few problems and failed even to chase vacationers away from the beach.

Warnings of gusty wind and rain didn't stop Derek Creekmore, 32, who with surfing buddy Mark Carter drove to Cape Hatteras from Chesapeake, Va., to ride the tall, breaking waves brought in by the storm.

``It's a lot rougher out there, but this is what we look forward to every year,'' Creekmore said. ``We plan to stay out here until we get tired.''

Officials said that there had been no requests for assistance, and that Gabrielle likely would be remembered mostly as an inconvenience.

``We'll be glad to help out if anybody needs it, but right now, we're not hearing anything. It's been kind of quiet,'' said Julia Jarema, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

Gabrielle brought gusty winds that howled at 50 mph, churning up the Atlantic surf to the delight of surfers and kiteboarders. Despite that, the storm failed to dump much rain inland, where much of North Carolina is experiencing severe drought.

``We're glad we didn't have any flooding or wind damage, but the rain would have been nice,'' Jarema said. ``The coast got some rain, but they were the ones with the least problems from the drought.''

At 5 p.m., the center of the storm was about 30 miles southwest of Kill Devil Hills, headed north near 12 mph. Its maximum sustained winds were close to 50 mph, with stronger gusts, and it was expected to weaken slightly in the next 12 hours.

Forecasters expected it to pass over the Outer Banks near Nags Head on Sunday night on its way back out to sea.

Forecasters kept a tropical storm warning in effect from Surf City north Cape Charles Light, Va. A watch was in effect for the area extending to New Point Comfort peninsula, along the Chesapeake Bay.

Officials preached caution throughout the day as Gabrielle moved through the vacation hotspot. They closed campgrounds on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and put swift water rescue teams and National Guard units on standby. But no one was ordered to evacuate, and officials said the greatest danger was posed by rip currents threatening swimmers who ventured into the ocean.

``We had heavy surf, but you could tell from looking at it the currents were strong,'' said Dare County spokeswoman Dorothy Toolan. ``People took the advice and stayed out of it today.''

Officials in Dare, Hyde and Currituck counties, which cover most of the Outer Banks, said Sunday they had no reports of any water rescues tied to Gabrielle.

While some spots did get some decent rain _ nearly 5 inches in Harlow in rural Carteret County, and about an inch in nearby New Bern and Beaufort _ the storm was mostly a tease.

Gabrielle spun into the storm late Friday after wandering in the Atlantic for several days, caught along an old frontal boundary that stalled about midway between the Southeast coast and Bermuda. Forecasters first labeled it a subtropical storm _ a hybrid system that takes power from warm ocean waters but also forms from warm and cold fronts colliding _ before classifying it a tropical system.

``This has given us a little practice run for hurricanes,'' said Currituck County spokeswoman Diane Sawyer. ``You don't wish to have a storm, but if you have to have one it's a good one to have. It looks like we're going to be lucky.''