LUMBERTON — Hurricane Arthur’s bark may have been worse than its bite when it came to Robeson County.
The first hurricane of the season brushed against North Carolina’s coast on Thursday night, but without officially making landfall as earlier anticipated. The fast moving storm temporarily crippled many homes along the coast, leaving more than 16,000 Duke Energy customers without power there and dropping three to four inches of rain in some coastal areas. But its impact on Robeson County was reported as minimal at best.
“Eastern portions of your county, looking at a radar, there was just not much for your neck of the woods,” said Michael Colby, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington. “Essentially you got up to three quarter inches of rain. In the western part of your county you did not get a great deal of rain at all … Not much wind at all either. Nothing more than 15 miles per hour.”
By press time Duke Energy was unable to confirm the exact number of outages that took place in Robeson County on Thursday night, though their spokesperson Paige Lane estimated the number to be much lower compared to the number of outages experienced along the coast.
“I would hate to say we dodged a bullet but it could have been a lot worse,” said Lane. “ … We were preparing for the worst. We actually sent crews down toward the coast, ready to respond. We wanted to make sure our customers had adequate resources.”
Arthur is now making its way north, toward New England’s coast, but it will likely dissipate around Nova Scotia.
Arthur strengthened to a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph Thursday evening before passing over the southern end of the Outer Banks — a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands with about 57,000 permanent residents. The islands are susceptible to high winds, rough seas and road-clogging sands, prompting an exodus that began Wednesday night.
Jesse and Carol Wray could see outside their home in Salvo on North Carolina Highway 12 that the road was submerged under several feet of water Friday morning. The six-foot-tall lamppost at the end of their driveway was under water except for its top, and that was after the sound a quarter-mile away receded several feet since first light, said Jesse Wray, 68, a retired Norfolk, Virginia, firefighter.
“I’m surprised that it got this bad. There’s all kind of debris floating around here. I know a lot of people who lost their houses around here” if they were built on the ground instead of elevated, Jesse Wray said. Wray’s home is on pilings nine feet off the ground and avoided water inside.
“It looks kind of rough,” he said.
About seven miles south on the island, Frank Folb, 70, said his brick home on a rise in Buxton suffered no damage. Tomato plants in his garden were twisted and broken, but “overall it’s not bad,” he said. “I’ve been losing electricity but I slept through the night pretty well.”
“We’re most concerned about flooding inland and also storm surges in our sounds and our rivers further inland,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday.
Before the storm hit, tourism officials had expected 250,000 people to travel to the Outer Banks for the holiday weekend.
After passing over North Carolina early Friday, Hurricane Arthur was expected to weaken as it traveled northward and dump rain along the East Coast. The annual Boston Pops Fourth of July concert and fireworks show were held Thursday night just before of a heavy downpour from Arthur, while fireworks displays in New Jersey and Maine were postponed until later in the weekend.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.