- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

HATTERAS, N.C. (AP) — Tropical Storm Gabrielle is expected to create heavy surf today in Ocean City when it passes off the Maryland coast, but will not bring high winds and rain to the resort or to the D.C. region.

The storm made landfall yesterday on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, packing 50 mph winds and plenty of rain, but not enough of a threat to scare vacationers from the shore and surfers from the beach.

“It’s a lot rougher out there, but this is what we look forward to every year,” said Derek Creekmore, 32, of Chesapeake, Va., as he carried his surfboard into tall, breaking waves near Cape Hatteras. “We plan to stay out here until we get tired.”

Though Gabrielle strengthened slightly yesterday morning, it was a weak tropical storm when its small center made landfall along the Cape Lookout National Seashore at about 11:45 a.m.

Brian Lasorsa, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the storm is expected to swerve out to sea and weaken after leaving the Outer Banks. He also said the thunderstorms predicted for the region over the next couple of days will be from a cold front from the west, not the tropical storm.

Captain Butch Arbin of the Ocean City Beach Patrol said yesterday the storm had already brought rough surf, which he described as “washing machine” conditions, but lifeguards had made only the usual number of rescues. However, Capt. Arbin said his bigger concern is the next couple of days, particularly rip currents when the winds calm and make the powerful surf look smooth and inviting.

Gabrielle was expected to reach Nags Head on North Carolina’s Outer Banks last night before returning into the Atlantic.

At midday yesterday, the center of the storm was about 45 miles west-northwest of Cape Hatteras, headed north at nearly 12 mph. Its maximum sustained winds were close to 50 mph, with stronger gusts, and it was expected to remain at that strength for the next 24 hours.

“At least it will be during daylight hours,” said Dorothy Toolan, a spokeswoman for Dare County. “We’re saying use caution because you’re going to see some heavy rains as the bands start coming through.”

Forecasters issued a tropical storm warning only as far north as the Virginia-North Carolina border. However, a small-craft advisory was issued for Maryland coastal water.

Gabrielle spun into the tropical storm status late Friday after wandering in the Atlantic Ocean for several days, caught along an old frontal boundary that stalled midway between the Southeast coast and Bermuda. Forecasters first labeled it a subtropical storm — a hybrid system that takes power from warm ocean waters but also forms from warm and cold fronts colliding — before classifying it Saturday as a tropical system.

Gabrielle’s first showers reached the coast late Saturday night. Forecasters said the storm could produce a storm surge of up to 3 feet, with 1 to 3 inches of rain falling in coastal areas and up to 5 inches in isolated spots. Some ocean overwash on N.C. 12 — the main road along the Outer Banks — and beach erosion were also expected.

n AP writer Estes Thompson contributed to this report from Raleigh, N.C.

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