N.C.: Gabrielle Leaves Wet but Undamaged Outer Banks for Open Sea

Tropical Storm Gabrielle struggled to stay organized as it moved back over the Atlantic Ocean early Monday, leaving in its wake wet but largely unimpressed vacationers and surfers on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Though the storm lost much of its rainmaking clouds over North Carolina, forecasters said Gabrielle still harnessed maximum sustained winds of 45 mph late Sunday and would likely maintain that strength for about a day before weakening over cooler water.

The storm’s small center made landfall along the Cape Lookout National Seashore around 11:45 a.m., then passed back into the Atlantic near Kill Devil Hills less than 12 hours later, moving northeast at about 10 mph.

Other than some inconvenient winds, light road flooding and a bit of welcome rain, Gabrielle had little impact on the coast.

“If you think of what might of been as it approached us, I would say that we’re in very good shape,” said Dorothy Toolan, a spokeswoman for Dare County Emergency Management.

While some isolated spots saw significant rainfall, including more than 8 inches in Beaufort, precipitation only reached a handful of eastern North Carolina counties. The entire state is gripped by drought, particularly in western and central counties, and there was hope the first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season to reach North Carolina would provide some relief.

“We’re glad we didn’t have any flooding or wind damage, but the rain would have been nice,” said Julia Jarema, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. “The coast got some rain, but they were the ones with the least problems from the drought.”

The National Weather Service said 1.5 feet of water from Pamlico Sound covered parts of Highway 12 near Salvo, a common spot for overwash, but that the roadway was still passable and the surge would subside overnight.

Ferry service to Ocracoke Island that was suspended Sunday afternoon was due to resume Monday morning, Jarema said.

Gabrielle developed into a subtropical storm Friday before spinning into a full tropical system Saturday. That came after the system spent several days stalled in the Atlantic along an old frontal boundary.

“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.”