(Update, 2:45 p.m.) Dr. Rick Luettich, director of UNC's Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, said that according to forecasting models developed by himself and his colleagues, water levels are expected to increase by another 1-2 feet Tuesday night into Wednesday, for a total of 2-4 feet above normal water levels.

"Water levels are already running 1-2 feet above normal along our coast," Dr. Luettich said. "Some flooding Down East, along the lower Neuse (River), the back side of the Barrier Islands and other areas that are prone to flooding is also likely. As always this is subject to change, depending on changes in the storm track, size, intensity and speed." 

(Update, 11 a.m.) Hurricane Maria is continuing northward, with earlier watches and warnings still in effect along the North Carolina coast.

Due to the approaching Maria, Hyde County officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order for Ocracoke Island, and Dare County officials have done the same for Cape Hatteras. The N.C. Department of Transportation's Ferry Division began assisting with the evacuation of Ocracoke at 5 a.m. Monday.

According to the National Hurricane Center’s advisory at 11 a.m. Monday, Maria is still a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Maria is about 315 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras. It has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and is moving north at 7 mph. Its minimum central barometric pressure is 28.44 inches.

The tropical storm warning, tropical storm watch and storm surge watch that were in the 8 a.m. Monday advisory are still in place. Tropical storm conditions are still expected to begin Tuesday. The long-range forecast for Maria remains largely unchanged.

(Update, 9:20 a.m.) Due to watches and warnings associated with Hurricane Maria, the National Park Service began closing Cape Lookout on Sunday and issued a mandatory evacuation of the cape. According to an NPS press release Sunday, the park service made this decision to ensure that Cape Lookout staff can effectively evacuate the islands and secure the park.

“The storm track is not good for eastern North Carolina,” the NPS said, “and the National Weather Service is advising to prepare for this storm, especially for vulnerable area such as the barrier islands. In addition, due to the expected winds and small craft advisory, conditions are expected to deteriorate as the week progresses.”

The NPS said that Cape Lookout is still being affected by washover from Hurricane Jose. It said the amount of rainfall Cape Lookout receives will depend on the exact track and forward speed of Maria, but heavy rainfall and flash flooding are possible.

“We’re expecting a small craft advisory to be in effect due to strong winds and seas of 5-8 feet,” the NPS said. “Marine conditions may deteriorate rapidly moving into the week. As Maria approaches, the threat of rip currents will increase to ‘High’ across the (Cape Lookout) area.”

Cabins at Cape Lookout will close on Tuesday. Reservations for the Great Island and Long Point cabin camps will also be cancelled for Tuesday night and until further notice. Cancelled reservations may receive a full refund at the website www.recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777.

NPS acting superintendent Katherine Cushinberry said the NPS’s decision is being made to ensure public safety. The park service will continue to monitor ongoing development with Maria; updates on Cape Lookout’s status will be posed on the park website www.nps.gov/calo, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CapeLookoutNPS and on Twitter at twitter.com/CapeLookoutNPS.

(Original Article) MIAMI — Hurricane Maria is set to pass by North Carolina off its coast this week as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

According to the National Hurricane Center’s 8 a.m. Monday advisory, several watches and warnings are in effect on the North Carolina coast. Maria is about 335 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras. It has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and is moving north at 7 mph. Its minimum central barometric pressure is 28.38 inches.

According to the NHC, a tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast from Cape Lookout to Duck and for Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. A tropical storm watch is in effect north of Duck to the N.C./Va. state line and north of Surf City to south of Cape Lookout. A storm surge watch is also in effect from Cape Lookout to Duck.

A tropical storm warning means tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning areas within the next 36 hours. A tropical storm watch means tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, in this case within the next 36-48 hours.

A storm surge watch means there’s the possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising waters moving inland from the coastline in the watch area within the next 48 hours.

The NHC is forecasting tropical storm conditions to begin within the warning area sometime Tuesday and to become possible within the watch area Tuesday as well. If the forecast storm surge occurs during high tide, the coast from Cape Lookout to Duck, including the sound side of the Outer Banks, is expected to get 2-4 feet of water above ground level.

Maria is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 1-2 inches over the Outer Banks through Wednesday. Swells generated by Maria are affecting portions of the coast of the southeastern U.S., including North Carolina; these are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

According to the NHC’s long range forecast, Maria is expected to continue north over the Atlantic Monday and Tuesday. It’s expected to weaken to a tropical storm sometime late Tuesday into early Wednesday.

Maria is forecast to shift its track sharply to the northeast sometime early Wednesday into Thursday and head back out to sea.

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

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