Hurricane Maria will largely spare the Triangle but could take a bite out of coastal North Carolina on Tuesday with waves rising between 14 to 20 feet, forecasters said Sunday.
The Category 2 storm is expected to swoop roughly 130 miles offshore and produce extremely rough seas and overwash, said ABC meteorologist Steve Stewart.
“I think Highway 12 will be underwater,” said Stewart of the frequently washed-out Outer Banks road. “It’s way, way too dangerous to even think about swimming.”
Wrightsville Beach saw more than 25 rescues because of rip currents Saturday. The Coast Guard expected gale-force winds nearing 40 mph at Beaufort Inlet by Monday and warned pleasure boats to seek safe harbor.
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Hurricane Maria is forecast to track up the southeastern coast of the United States, and winds from the storm are expected to reach North Carolina as early as Monday. The storm is not expected to make landfall.
Raleigh can expect winds to reach 20 mph, but Maria’s outer bands may not move close enough to cause any rain. “For us,” Stewart said, “not much.”
While the storm had weakened slightly as of early Sunday morning, its maximum sustained winds were still near 110 mph, with higher gusts and fluctuations in the storm’s strength are expected over the next day or so, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The core of Maria is expected to move well east of the southeast coast of the United States over the next two days, but the Carolinas could still feel tropical force winds and see rain from the storm, since those winds can be felt up to 240 miles from the center. Winds east of Maria’s center clocked in at 68 mph with gusts up to 85 mph on Sunday.
Tropical storm or hurricane watches may be needed for parts of the coast on Monday.