Hurricane Felix slowed to a crawl as it advanced on the Outer Banks with winds of 75 mph Wednesday, keeping the North Carolina-Virginia coast waiting for what could be a prolonged drenching.
An estimated 200,000 vacationers and others fled the long, skinny islands and other coastal North Carolina communities, filling motels for hundreds of miles inland at the height of the tourist season. Many year-round islanders ignored evacuation orders.
“I’m all ready,” Larry Grubbs said as he watched the roiling waves batter the fishing pier at Rodanthe. “I put the lawn chairs in the shed, fastened the windows and doors and made sure everything was lashed down. That’s about all you can do.”
Forecasters were having a hard time guessing when Felix, which slowed from 14 mph to a near standstill, would arrive.
By evening, the National Weather Service Hurricane Center in Miami figured Felix probably wouldn’t come ashore until tonight at the earliest, said Jerry Jarrell, deputy director. It was most likely to hit Cape Hatteras, the outermost point on the Outer Banks, the center said.
At 8 p.m., Felix was centered about 145 miles east of Cape Hatteras, and was barely moving. Little strengthening was expected.
The last hurricane to rough up the Outer Banks was Emily, which caused $32 million damage in 1993. It was a Category 3 storm, with winds between 111 and 130 mph.