'The ocean is angry,' tourism official says

WAVES, N.C. (AP) - Tropical Storm Maria is bringing winds of 55 mph (88 kph) to North Carolina's Outer Banks, along with storm surge washing over the main highway along the barrier islands.

The National Weather Service reported Wednesday those wind gusts were highest in Oregon Inlet south of Nags Head.

"The ocean is angry," Helena Stevens with the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association told the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk.

The water was washing across sections of N.C. 12, the main road running the length of the barrier islands.

The North Carolina Ferry Division said all ferries in the Pamlico Sound were suspended Wednesday because of the storm conditions. Officials estimate more than 10,000 visitors evacuated Ocracoke and Hatteras islands.

Schools were closed in Dare County on the Outer Banks for a second day.

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5:40 a.m.

Some of the most fragile islands in the continental United States are preparing for the latest strike from this year's devastating hurricane season.

The North Carolina Outer Banks were only getting a glancing blow as weakening Tropical Storm Maria was forecast to move about 150 miles (240 kilometers) offshore Wednesday. But officials warned that severe beach erosion was likely there and along many other mid-Atlantic beaches.

Officials say Maria is predicted to erode more than half the dunes along North Carolina's 300-mile (485-kilometer) coast. Beaches in Maryland and Virginia could fare even worse.

This hurricane season has been even harder on Texas, Florida, several small Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico, where officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month.

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