Hurricane Charley Diminishing As It Heads North
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ A weakened Hurricane Charley headed out to sea today after lashing the mid- Atlantic coast with high winds and heavy rains and prompting thousands of coastal residents to evacuate.
The storm was blamed for at least five deaths, authorities said.
The National Weather Service discontinued all hurricane watches and warnings at noon, saying that any hurricane-force winds in the system were confined to a few squalls over open water.
″We expect it to gradually decrease in the next 12 to 24 hours,″ said hurricane forecaster Bob Case.
Gale warnings for winds up to 55 mph remained in effect from Delaware Bay to Cape Cod, Mass.
″There are some indications the storm may be weakening and turning more toward the northeast this morning with the center remaining offshore,″ the weather service said. ″This reduces the threat to the New Jersey coast.″
The storm hit New Jersey’s south shore today with driving rain, winds at 50 mph and gusts to 65 mph. Atlantic City reported heavy rains and reported 54 mph winds at 8 a.m., forecasters said.
The death toll included a 23-year-old Virginia man whose car struck a storm-downed tree today, and three people aboard a small plane that crashed Sunday into the Chesapeake Bay near Baltimore as it tried to land during a hurricane-spawned storm.
Authorities said two bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the twin- engined plane and the third person aboard the plane was believed killed as well.
A Manteo, N.C., woman died when her car apparently slipped into a canal on an Outer Banks causeway Sunday, state police said.
The causeway was flooded and reported impassable Sunday evening. Elsewhere on the Outer Banks, a foot of water surged into the Dare County Courthouse in Manteo, flooding was reported in the Stumpy Point community and water was 2 to 3 feet deep on the north end of the Oregon Inlet bridge, authorities said.
Charley caused power outages and flooding of up to 3 feet but little damage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Sunday. As many as 10,000 tourists and residents fleeing the fragile islands jammed roads to the mainland for a short-lived evacuation.
The hurricane knocked down trees and signs on Virginia’s mainland Sunday evening and left about 110,000 people without power, but caused no major damage, authorities said.
The storm also washed out a 250-foot section of Harrison’s Pier, a Norfolk landmark.
At noon, Charley’s center was near latitude 38.7 north and longitude 73.5 west, about 75 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J. The storm was moving north-northeast at 10 to 15 mph, and was expected to continue moving parallel to the coast.
Charley is relatively small, with gale-force winds extending about 125 miles from the eye on the storm’s eastern semi-circle and some 50 miles to the western side, Case said.
The eye is rather broad area of between 25 and 30 miles and is dwindling as the storm moves slowly over cooler waters, Case said. Upper wind patterns of the hurricane no longer favor its growth, he added.
The National Weather Service forecast a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet above normal, which could combine with an unusually high astronomical tide to produce coastal flooding in Delaware and New Jersey.
″If the maximum surge arrives at high tide, then you could have quite a bit of coastal flooding,″ said Case, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla.
Gusts up to 104 mph closed the 17-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which connects Norfolk with the Eastern Shore.
″With so much wind and rain, visibility is right down to almost zero,″ said Capt. Clenent Pruitt of the tunnel police. ″I doubt you could stand up in it.″
Ocean City officials warned mobile home residents to secure their property and evacuate, advised handicapped residents to go to shelters and asked would- be visitors to stay away.
More than 1,200 people voluntarily evacuated to 10 nearby shelters, said Maryland State Police spokesman Chuck Jackson.
About 3,500 people went to shelters in Sussex County, Del., said Wayne Ellingston, the county’s emergency operations director.
In Bethany Beach, Del., hundreds of people headed inland as police and firefighters using loudspeakers drove the streets warning people to leave. In Rehoboth Beach, Del., about 500 people had evacuated by 3 a.m. and officials were calling for evacuations in low-lying areas and in trailer parks.
In Virginia, emergency shelters took in 4,000 people, but Jimmy Burke, a desk clerk at the Kona Kai Motel in Virginia Beach, said he registered several walk-in guests Sunday.
″I’ve had a lot of local people checking in just to watch″ the storm, he said.
Charley shut down Norfolk International Airport and led the Navy to recall thousands of sailors in case it would be necessary to ride out the storm at sea. But it was decided to keep the vessels at dockside to wait out the storm. The Air Force sent more than 70 planes from Langley Air Force Base in Hampton to other bases inland. Fourteen huge C-5A Gallaxy cargo planes were sent inland from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
In North Carolina, Charley dumped 2.47 inches of rain on Cape Hatteras and left water standing 2 to 3 feet deep in parts of Manteo and a foot deep inside the Manteo courthouse.
Flooding left some bridges to the barrier islands impassable.
The storm caused an undetermined amount of damage to hangars and aircraft at Manteo Airport, said Bill Jones, a spokesman for the state Division of Emergency Management.
The wind ripped the brick facing off the Colonial Inn in Nags Head and threw it onto a car, destroying the vehicle.
Power failures were reported on Hatteras Island, Manns Harbor, Kill Devill Hills and Roanoke Island.
The population of the evacuated area of the Outer Banks reaches 15,000 to 20,000 during the summer, and about half of them heeded the warnings, said Chrystal Stowe of the North Carolina Emergency Management Division.
Six ferries spent hours evacuating isolated Ocracoke Island, where the Cape Hatteras National Seashore juts into the Atlantic Ocean.
Many, however, were unable to get off the islands and waited out the storm.
″And it wasn’t nearly as bad as it might have been,″ said Millie Griffin, a motel clerk on Ocracoke Island.
The hurricane, the Atlantic season’s second, began Tuesday as a low pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico, dumping up to 2 inches of rain on northern Florida and Georgia before drifting near South Carolina late Thursday.
It developed into a named tropical storm Friday about 140 miles east- southeast of Charleston, S.C., then spent much of Saturday dawdling off the South Carolina coast before drifting first northeastward, then northward.
Hurricane Bonnie formed in the Gulf of Mexico in late June and hit Texas, killing at least three people and destroying dozens of homes.