Maria likely to become tropical storm Tuesday night or Wednesday: NHC

"Storm surge flooding is occurring, especially along the sound side of the North Carolina Outer Banks, and a storm surge warning and watch are in effect for portions of eastern North Carolina".

Those along the East Coast of the U.S. are warily watching the Category 3 hurricane, but forecasters believe it will spare the mainland after battering Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday.

Maria, the onetime major hurricane that left dozens dead on its rampage across Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, now has top sustained winds of 60 miles per hour (95 kph).

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Hyde County had earlier ordered an evacuation of visitors from Ocracoke Island beginning at 5 a.m. Monday.

Storm and surge watches and warnings have been issued for parts of North Carolina, with tropical storm conditions and risky flooding possible within the next few days. Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson warned that travel would remain hazardous for the foreseeable future, particularly on Hatteras Island. The hurricane, which is sitting in the North Atlantic Ocean some 500 miles east-southeast of Bermuda, is expected to start passing over cooler waters Thursday night, the Weather Underground noted.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for Ocracoke Inlet to Cape Hatteras.

The Outer Banks can expect 1 to 2 inches of rain from the storm but strong winds still pose a threat. But Pearson said officials think between 10,000 and 12,500 people have left the island ahead of the storm.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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