US, Caribbean can finally relax as Maria races out to sea

2017-09-28 18:00
A resident bails water from a flooded home in Catano in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. (Carlos Giusti, AP)

A resident bails water from a flooded home in Catano in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. (Carlos Giusti, AP)

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Waves - Maria was finally racing east in the Atlantic on Thursday, giving the United States a rest from the constant threat of tropical weather for more than a month.

No injuries have been reported on the US mainland with Maria, which mainly lashed North Carolina's fragile Outer Banks with high water and waves pounding the fragile islands from both sides, washing over the only highway connecting Hatteras Island to the mainland.

While Maria's most punishing hurricane-force winds remained offshore, tropical storm-force winds extended for as much as 370km/h from the centre, churning up the surf on both sides of the islands. Maria moved slowly on Monday and Tuesday before accelerating out to sea late on Wednesday and weakening to a tropical storm early on Thursday.

Storm weakening

Officials expected conditions to improve quickly on the Outer Banks, so schools could reopen, sand could be removed from roads and the ferries that provide access to Ocracoke Island can begin running again.

Since Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico on August 24, forecasters have been watching the Atlantic for likely threats to the United States or the Caribbean islands.

But the National Hurricane Centre predicts that Maria and Hurricane Lee, which strengthened to a major Category 3 hurricane on Wednesday before weakening to Category 2 in the open Atlantic, were both headed quickly east into colder water and away from the region.

Maria struck Puerto Rico, its Category 4 winds devastating the island. As the storm headed north and west, North Carolina officials ordered more than 10 000 tourists to leave Hatteras and Ocracoke because of the possible flooding.

That left locals to watch another storm chew up their beaches. This is the fourth named tropical storm to affect the islands in the past two years. During the winters, Nor'easters can also churn away sand and flood roads.

Read more on:    us  |  hurricanes

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