UPDATE: 11:26 a.m. EDT – Tropical storm Maria strengthened once again into a hurricane Wednesday morning as it made its way toward North Carolina, the National Hurricane Center announced. Winds from the storm reached up to 75 mph as it churned about 150 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras.
Hurricane Maria was downgraded to a tropical storm Tuesday night as it made its way toward North Carolina. The storm’s eye remained about 150 miles east of the Outer Banks Wednesday morning and would likely bring wind and rain to North Carolina throughout the day.
“We expect Maria to bring tropical storm conditions, or the equivalent of a moderate nor’easter, in part of eastern North Carolina and in southeastern Virginia,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. “We do not expect Maria to regain hurricane status.”
Maria could bring some coastal flooding as well as significant beach erosion to the region as well, according to AccuWeather. The worst of the storm would likely hit regions from eastern North Carolina to Delaware, closest to the center of the storm. About 10,000 visitors to the Outer Banks were evacuated, though residents were allowed to stay put.
“A coastal inundation of two to four feet is likely on the barrier islands of eastern North Carolina,” said AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski. “Waters are likely to rise to about two feet above astronomical tide levels in southeastern Virginia, with minor coastal flooding likely.”
Winds had reached up to 70 mph Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Gusts of about 40 mph can knock out power and cause property damage. Residents in North Carolina and elsewhere were urged to bring in loose outdoor items and anything that could be picked up in strong winds.
Water already began inundating the main road along the Outer Banks Wednesday morning, the Associated Press reported. Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson warned that travel would remain hazardous for the foreseeable future, particularly on Hatteras Island.
Although Maria was downgraded to a tropical storm, beach erosion could pose a significant problem for North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia. The storm was predicted to erode more than half the dunes along North Carolina’s 300-mile coast, while Maryland and Virginia could see two-thirds of their coasts eroded, according to the Associated Press.
Maria was expected to move out into the Atlantic Ocean Wednesday…