SALTER PATH, N.C. – Hurricane Ophelia, North Carolina’s least welcome guest, refused again to leave Thursday, lashing the Outer Banks with rain and wind as coastal residents elsewhere returned home to damaged homes and businesses.
Ophelia just “beat us and beat us and beat us,” one storm-weary resident said before the system was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday night when its sustained winds dropped to 70 mph.
The weakening storm’s center was expected to stay just off shore. But the northern side of Ophelia’s eyewall, the ring of high wind surrounding the eye, could remain over the Outer Banks until midday today, the National Hurricane Center said.
Gov. Mike Easley said gauging the scope of the damage was difficult because of the storm’s slow path, first affecting the state’s southeastern coast Tuesday and then crawling north and east Wednesday and Thursday to its position off the Outer Banks.
“It’s almost like working three different storms,” Easley said.
More than 48,000 homes and businesses remained without power Thursday evening in eastern North Carolina, utilities said
It appeared the mainland had dodged the severe flooding many had feared, but the wind and waves had taken a toll.
“We were not expecting this,” said Laurie Garner, whose boyfriend’s restaurant was severely damaged at Salter Path on Bogue Banks, southwest of Morehead City. “It just beat us and beat us and beat us.”
The storm was blamed for one traffic death. Earlier, a surfer disappeared in rough water off the coast of South Carolina.
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