Heavy surf pounds Outer Banks

KILL DEVIL HILLS, NC (WTVD) -- Even though Hurricane Joaquin appears to be moving away from the East Coast, North Carolina's Outer Banks are seeing lots of wind, rain, and rough surf ahead of the storm.

Still, state and local officials are breathing a sigh of relief that it likely won't be worse.

"It's been dramatic changes" since forecasts Thursday that Joaquin could brush the state, Governor Pat McCrory said Friday. "At one time they were talking about historic catastrophe right here in North Carolina, and literally within hours the direction changed."

The governor said within 24 hours of Hyde County officials declaring a mandatory evacuation of low-lying Ocracoke Island, the state's ferry division had removed 485 vehicles and nearly 1,100 people.

"Our state is now likely to miss any direct impact from the hurricane, but there is still significant danger of flooding, high seas, heavy surf, beach erosion" and saltwater washing onto roads and property, McCrory said.

Forecasters are warning of the dangers of rip currents along the entire North Carolina coast. The National Weather Service also said surf will be high - between 5 and 8 feet. Forecasters warn it will be dangerous for anyone to enter the water.

The weekend rain system should still pose a test for a new $500,000 sandbag and dune project town officials in Kitty Hawk built in the latest attempt to protect Highway 12 which we've seen destroyed and rebuilt countless times due to flooding.

And flooding is big concern on the coast. Like the Triangle, it has been raining seemingly non-stop for the last week. Combine the saturated ground with ocean over-wash from high surf and we could see problems.

There was some street flooding at coastal Holden Beach on Friday from an unusually high tide and light rain after raining the previous day, said Gil Bass, owner of a fishing pier and an oceanfront campground.

"As far as the surf is concerned, it's not as bad as I thought it would be, but we still have some high waves and erosion," he said. "I've seen it worse and I've seen it a lot better."

Earlier this week, Bass prepared to cover the windows of his businesses with boards but hadn't put them in place before forecasters started calling for the hurricane to go out to sea.

"We just feel like we are very fortunate, and we hope that thing will go out to sea and not affect anyone," he said. "Of course everyone is concerned about the Bahamas and our hearts go out to them."

Click for the ABC11 Hurricane Tracker
Copyright © 2019 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.