High winds, rain, anticipated as Hurricane Dennis brushes Carolinas
Barrier islands evacuated
August 30, 1999
WILMINGTON, North Carolina (CNN) -- Winds from the outer edges of Hurricane Dennis are expected to brush the coasts of North and South Carolina on Monday, but the eye of the storm and most of its destructive force should remain off the coast, forecasters say.
Still, bands of rain were predicted to drop as much as four to eight inches overnight from Wilmington to Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Hurricane-force winds were possible in some areas, officials said, particularly off Cape Fear, North Carolina, a sparsely populated area.
Hurricane warnings were issued from Little River Inlet, South Carolina, to Oregon Inlet, North Carolina, including Pamlico Sound. "Not that we think it's going to make landfall," center director Jerry Jarrell told CNN on Sunday. "We don't. But we think it's going to come close enough to cause hurricane winds ... on North Carolina."
At 11 p.m. EDT on Sunday, a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch were discontinued from Edisto Beach, South Carolina southward. A hurricane watch and a tropical strom warning remain in effect from north of Edisto Beach to Little River Inlet, South Carolina.
At 1 a.m. EDT Monday, Dennis hovered 125 miles south of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at close to 12 mph. Its maximum sustained winds whipped near 105 mph with higher gusts. Hurricane-force winds extended 85 miles from the center, with tropical storm force winds extending up to 200 miles from the center.
Earlier in the evening, Frying Pan Shoals -- a weather platform 30 miles off the coast from Cape Lookout, North Carolina -- reported 64 mph sustained winds, with gusts to 85 mph and 31-foot waves and 23 foot swells. Forecasters said Dennis could slowly strengthen over the next 24 hours.
While forecasters are unsure where the category 2 storm will go, they think a Canadian trough will keep it from landfall.
"But," Jarrel warned, "anything can happen."
Another forecaster at the center, Todd Kimberlain, agreed the storm should remain off the coast. But it's possible the hurricane will not be taken entirely out to sea and another weather system could turn it back toward the coast within a day or two, he said.
That could be good news, he said, because the storm could be much weaker on its return and provide badly needed rain to areas parched by drought.
People leaving islands, Wilmington area
Coastal areas from central Florida through South Carolina were hit by rain squalls Sunday as Dennis moved closer to the United States from the Bahamas.
Two North Carolina barrier islands that could experience the most severe impact were being evacuated, said Tom Hegele, a spokesman for the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management.
Ocracoke Island is accessible only by ferry, while Hatteras Island is accessible from the mainland by only one bridge, which at times is covered by high waters.
Other coastal evacuations in North Carolina were taking place in Topsail Beach, about 50 miles north of Wilmington; five beaches in New Hannover County near Wilmington; and Bald Head Island.
While no evacuations have been ordered in South Carolina, barrier island residents were being urged to move to higher ground.
Residents stock up on groceries, supplies
"I think those of us who have been here a good while don't get into a panic and keep something in the garage or somewhere all the time, but you still have to get your last minute stuff," said Beverly Wright at a Wilmington grocery store.
A local hardware store did brisk business, as people preparing for the storm bought sheets of plywood, batteries, flashlights, cookers and propane fuel.
"People are taking this storm quite seriously," said store manager Lee McConnell.
Dennis caused minor damage Saturday in the Bahamas. In the Abacos islands, the storm uprooted trees and utility poles, tore boats from their moorings and ripped some buildings down.
A second hurricane, Cindy, a packing winds of 105 mph (165 km/h), posed no threat to land. Cindy was located about 1600 miles (2585 km) west-southwest of the Azores and was moving toward the east-northeast near 13 mph (20 km/h).
North Carolina evacuates barrier islands ahead of Dennis
Tropical Prediction Center/National Hurricane Center
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