RALEIGH (WTVD) --Hurricane Arthur is long gone after hammering parts of the North Carolina coast with strong winds and rain. The storm became a Category 2 hurricane shortly after hitting the coast late Thursday, but was downgraded to a Category 1 storm Friday morning. It has now been downgraded again to a tropical storm as it approaches Nova Scotia.
Officials said Arthur reached land at about 11:15 p.m. Thursday between Cape Lookout and Beaufort.
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At the height of the storm, about 20 to nearly 30 foot waves were reported off Hatteras Island.
Saturday, Bonner Bridge and N.C. 12, the main lifelines to the Outer Banks, reopened to traffic at noon to permanent residents displaying valid ID and essential personnel. Dare County will determine when visitors can return.
The opening came after NCDOT crews worked through the night to make the route safe for travel.
"I want to thank our entire team for their service and hard work on the July 4th national holiday to get N.C. 12 and the Bonner Bridge reopened so quickly after the storm," said NCDOT Sec. Tony Tata. "Safety is always our first priority, but we also know how important it is to get our Hatteras Island residents back home, and our beach tourism back on line."
At a news conference Friday morning, Gov. Pat McCrory said there were no casualties or serious injuries related to the hurricane.
"That puts a big smile on all our faces," he told reporters.
The governor said the lack of major damage means the beaches are open for the 4th of July weekend.
"I've put on my beach shirt," he said. "It's time to celebrate Independence Day."
At last report, less than 3,000 homes and businesses continued to be without power in the coastal counties, with the majority of customers impacted in Carteret County. Ocracoke Island was also without power, and it could be as late as Sunday until electricity is restored fully.
"Details are still coming in about the amount of damage along the coast," Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said. "The state will continue to work with its federal, state and local partners to assess the damage, provide resources and help with recovery efforts."
The Governor said along the coast there was flooding, minor beach erosion, shingles off homes, and dock damage.
Highway 64 in Nags Head was flooded and roofs were blown off homes and a hotel in Atlantic Beach.
"It will be a beautiful weekend so get out and enjoy our beaches," McCrory said. "Hurricane Arthur produced heavy rains and strong winds, but we are fortunate to have seen minimal impact to our North Carolina's coastal communities and beaches. We are thankful that our visitors and citizens were kept safe during this storm, and I urge continued caution to beachgoers in regard to the potential for strong rip currents in the days ahead."
Carteret County Manager Russell Overman told ABC11 that several trees and power lines were down in the area causing power outages to almost half the county after Arthur hit the Crystal Coast.
"It wasn't that bad, but it was bad enough," he said.
Meanwhile, despite Hurricane Arthur moving off North Carolina shores, the water's strength should not be underestimated.
"Current is strong out there, really strong," surfer Michael Sutton said. "The undertow is really strong, but the current - you can't stay out more than 5 minutes because it will push you sideways."
The National Hurricane Center said Arthur is the earliest hurricane to hit North Carolina in a season since records began in 1851. The previous record was July 11, 1901.
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