As Maria creeps closer, Outer Banks vacationers pack-up

(PHOTO: J. Hinton / WLOS / Facebook)

Around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Maria was downgraded to a tropical storm.

On Tuesday afternoon, North Carolina's coast remains under a Tropical Storm Warning as the remnants of the storm that devastated Puerto Rico and surrounding areas is expected to impact the Carolina coast.

Hurricane Maria inches closer to the Outer Banks causing tropical storm force winds and overwash along Highway 12.

Crews from our sister station WLOS made our way to Hatteras earlier in the day, just as high tide was approaching. They say the could see the overwash already flowing into neighborhoods.

Thousands of visitors abandoned their vacation plans and left North Carolina's Outer Banks ahead of Hurricane Maria as it moved northward in the Atlantic, churning up surf and possible flooding.

Our crews met one man, who used to live in Asheville, who says he's experienced hurricanes in the past. He says he's leaving because he's tired of dealing with them.

"If you don't leave right now, you probably won't be able to because I won't be able to get my truck out of this moat," said John Wadsworth of Hatteras.

Wadsworth has a good attitude about it all, but says he's heading up to Virginia and away from the storm.

As Maria approaches, one of the biggest concerns with the storm is the storm surge.

The Governor says nearly 900 people were evacuated from Ocracoke Island, on the southern tip of the Outer Banks.

When all this water is coming to the area, Highway 12 could flood and in turn leave people trapped in what could be as much as 2-4 feet of water in some places

Initially Tuesday and Wednesday were the big days for concern, but now the governor says effects could last into Thursday as well.

In Kill Devil Hills, many people evacuated Monday. Visitors in Ocracoke and Hatteras were ordered to leave early Monday morning.

The potential for high winds continues to cause concern. Dare County Emergency officials say wind speeds could reach between 40 and 50 miles per hour with gusts climbing to 60 miles per hour.

The hurricane that battered the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico last week has weakened, with maximum sustained winds Tuesday near 75 mph (120 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria was expected to keep weaken into a tropical storm Tuesday night or Wednesday.

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