National

Outer Banks threatened as two storms merge to create coastal flooding, dangerous seas

Two storms off the East Coast are combining in the Mid-Atlantic to create dangerous conditions on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the National Hurricane Center said.

It gets worse, too.

Once the systems merge, the resulting storm will “stall off the East Coast,” stretching the predicted hazards out for days, according to the National Weather Service.

“While the storm system will not bring much rain to the coastline, it will, however, create some dangerous seas and hazardous beach conditions along with it,” NWS forecasters said.

“Large dangerous seas in excess of 10 feet will occur off the NC coast through late week.”

Parts of the Outer Banks should expect “beach erosion, dangerous rip currents and ocean overwash around the times of high tide,” forecasters said.

Flooding is most likely on the Pamlico Sound side of the islands, including southern Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, the Downeast area in Carteret County and communities along the lower Neuse River, the NWS said.

“All coastal impacts will likely be prolonged for several days... with roadways and properties north of Cape Hatteras adjacent to the beach experiencing inundation for several high tide cycles in a row,” the NWS tweeted.

The first photos of sea water pouring over dunes and across N.C. Highway 12 on the Outer Banks were posted on Facebook about 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Standing water was reported on the highway, which is the main road linking the barrier islands.

State officials predict highway flooding will be at its worst on NC 12’s “S-curves” area during high tides at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. “Portions of Highway 12 will be impassable at times the next few days,” said the N.C. Department of Transportation.

National Park Service officials have already begun warning motorists and campers at the national seashores on Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout to “exercise caution.”

“A developing coastal low will make things unsafe for swimmers and a little chancy for vehicles,” posted Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Many coastal communities have put up red flags on their beaches, indicating dangerous rip currents are likely in the ocean. Such currents are frequently blamed for drownings off the Carolinas.

The two storms are expected to merge Thursday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

One of the systems was producing thunderstorms “several hundred miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras,” forecasters said Thursday.

The second system is east of the Delaware-Virginia area and “is producing gale-force winds,” the National Hurricane Center said.

“This system is forecast to strengthen as a non-tropical low off the East Coast of the United States during the next day or so,” forecasters said.

“Regardless of development, this system is expected to bring strong winds, coastal flooding, and rough surf to portions of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States coasts through late week.”

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