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Hurricane Maria to deliver glancing blow to North Carolina this week

By Renee Duff • Updated Sep 25, 2017 at 11:28 PM

AccuWeather reports Hurricane Maria will come close enough to North Carolina to trigger gusty winds and rain, while unleashing dangerous seas elsewhere along the East Coast this week.

Maria, currently a Category 1 hurricane, will continue to track to the north-northwest away from the Caribbean early this week.

"Early this week, Maria will not be a threat to land," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said. "However, during the middle of the week, Maria may move rather close to the Outer Banks of North Carolina."

Maria is forecast to pass about 150 miles of the Outer Banks on Wednesday. The core of the storm with hurricane force wind will stay offshore with only a slight chance of landfall.

"We expect Maria to bring tropical storm conditions, or the equivalent of a moderate nor'easter in part of eastern North Carolina and in southeastern Virginia," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

"We do not expect Maria to regain major hurricane status. Further weakening is likely at midweek."

Sporadic power outages can occur and coastal flooding and beach erosion are anticipated.

Maria will run into an area of weak steering winds as it approaches North Carolina.

Maria's forward progress will slow significantly as a result, and the storm may even stall for a a time near the coast. This will prolong the period of onshore winds, which push water toward the coast. There will be a period of moderate coastal flooding and significant beach erosion along the Outer Banks and southeastern Virginia coast.

"A coastal inundation of 2-4 feet is likely on the barrier islands of eastern North Carolina," according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

At this level, low-lying roads and bridges on the islands will take on water. There would be no way to get people off the islands should an emergency arise.

The impending effects from Maria forced mandatory evacuations of visitors in Ocracoke Island and Hatteras Island as well as the closure of the Ocracoke Campground.

"Waters are likely to rise to about 2 feet above astronomical tide levels in southeastern Virginia, with minor coastal flooding likely," Kottlowski said.

Some beach erosion will occur along much of the U.S. Atlantic coast with Maria just offshore through this week.

A general 2 to 4 inches of rain may fall across the Outer Banks, which will be enough to cause water to collect in urban areas that drain poorly, including N.C. Highway 12.

Fears of dam failure persist in Puerto Rico as officials work to restore power following Maria's wrath

Tropical storm-force winds of 40 to 60 mph can lead to sporadic tree damage and power outages for parts of the Outer Banks, especially Cape Hatteras, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Frank Strait.

Loose outdoor items should be brought inside to prevent them from being tossed around in the wind and becoming dangerous projectiles. Weak tree limbs could be snapped.

Only if the storm tracks within 100 miles of the coast would hurricane conditions extend into the Outer Banks.

A push of much cooler air from the Midwest should pick Maria up and steer the storm out to sea by later in the week and next weekend. Summerlike heat spanning the eastern-third of the nation will come to an end.

Prior to, during and after Maria's closest approach to the East Coast, seas, surf and rip currents will increase from the northern Bahamas and Florida, to the mid-Atlantic and southeastern New England beaches this week.

Lifeguards reported 25 water rescues because of rip currents at Wrightsville beach, North Carolina, on Saturday. Near Jacksonville, water rose up to the dune line at South Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

While air and water temperatures are sufficiently high for swimming along the Atlantic Seaboard, those heading to the beach should avoid going into the water. Getting caught in a rip current is a life-threatening situation, especially during a time of year when lifeguards are not regularly on duty.

"People should avoid standing on jetties, due to the risk of sneaker waves," Sosnowski said. "Small craft should remain within the protection of intercoastal waterways this week and should remain in port on Tuesday and Wednesday from North Carolina to southeastern Virginia."

As the storm tracks into the North Atlantic at the end of September, some of Maria's rain and wind could brush part of Atlantic Canada. At the very least, seas near the coast and offshore will become dangerous.

A lull in tropical activity will follow Maria, but there will likely be more tropical threats heading into October.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Renee Duff is a meteorologist for AccuWeather.com.

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