NC coast expects high surf, little else from Danny

Liz De La Torre

From the Associated Press

CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. – Coastal residents looked ahead Friday to a late-summer weekend with fewer beach-loving tourists as Tropical Storm Danny kicked up rough surf that forecasters warned would be too risky for boaters and swimmers, though tempting for surfers.

For most residents of this community 40 miles north of the South Carolina line, Friday started as a normal, humid summer day with cloudy skies, no rain and chest-high waves crashing on the sand.

But for surf instructor Dave Houck, the building waves promised to be a weekend treat as Danny roiled well out to sea and was expected to churn north without hitting the mainland. He said he usually cancels classes when a tropical storm approaches, but he was on the strand Friday to coach some longtime students.

“This is what surfers love as far as the East Coast is concerned,” said Houck, 33, of nearby Wilmington. “We don’t want the mess. We just want the swells when the storm stays off shore.”

On Friday morning the storm was centered about 350 miles (565 kilometers) south of Cape Hatteras and moving northwest near 10 mph (17 kph). A turn to the north with an increase in speed was expected later in the day.

A tropical storm watch for the North Carolina coast was in effect Friday morning as Danny’s maximum sustained winds of near 40 mph threatened to generate dangerous surf and rip currents along the East Coast. Small craft advisories were posted along the South Carolina coast.

On the Outer Banks island of Ocracoke, Anchorage Marina dock master Robert Raborn said the warnings of rough seas prompted the usual stream of weekend boaters crossing the Pamlico Sound to cancel reservations for overnight docking space.

“Pretty much everybody’s canceled,” said Raborn, 40.

The National Weather Service warned there could be swells as high as 7 feet offshore as the storm passed the area.

“We’re not expecting a lot out of it. A little surf, a little wind and a little rain,” Raborn said. “More than likely we’ll have a beautiful weekend and no one to share it with.”

As he wheeled out bikes and surfboards at Pleasure Island Rentals on Carolina Beach, Craig McGinnity said if anything the offshore storm could boost weekend traffic from people who enjoy the rough surf. Most North Carolina schools opened for the academic year on Tuesday, so fewer families were planning beach vacations.

“We should see an uptick in business as the storm goes by,” McGinnity said. “If they close the beaches, I won’t rent out surfboards because I don’t want to put people in danger.”

Sylvia Jones said her 30-mile drive to work in Wilmington Friday morning was clear, followed by passing rain and the sun warming through scattering clouds.

“I feel a little bit of the wind rustling, but the sun is coming out,” she said. “It’s just a typical weekend.”

Meanwhile, officials on eastern Long Island are making emergency preparations for Tropical Storm Danny — even though it’s expected to weakened considerably before reaching the waters off the New England coast this weekend.

Suffolk County spokesman Mark Smith says although Danny is barely a tropical storm, the area remains vulnerable to wave and wind erosion and coastal flooding.

New York City says it might restrict swimmers to shallow waters this weekend, and could even close beaches.