North Carolina's northernmost coastal county is reopening after Hurricane Earl didn't cause the damage that officials feared.
The State Emergency Response Team said Currituck County reopens at 11 a.m. Friday. The county had ordered an evacuation for visitors Thursday morning as Earl bore down on North Carolina's coast.
The evacuation order for Carteret County was lifted early Friday.
Officials in Dare and Hyde counties are still assessing damage, and most of Hyde County remained without power Friday morning.
DOT officials say, ferries to southern beaches are open. The Cherry Branch and Pamlico ferries will resume operations at 9:45 a.m.; however, ferries north of Atlantic Beach remain closed for now.
NC Highway 12 is closed south of the Oregon Inlet Bridge due to flooding and storm surge from the hurricane. DOT crews are currently working to remove sand and assess the damage to the roadway.
Drivers are urged to use extreme caution while driving in areas that have been impacted by the storm. Be aware of debris on the ground, including possibly downed power lines. Motorists should never try to drive into standing or moving water. Flood water is deceptive and filled with silt and debris that can damage a vehicle’s brakes, transmission and undercarriage.
School systems are closed in Camden, Carteret, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, and Tyrrell counties. At the peak of the storm, as many as 397 evacuees sought refuge in 16 shelters.
Perdue urged travelers to use caution as they head back to the beach and across the state as they begin their holiday weekend.
The eye of Hurricane Earl stayed off the Outer Banks as it churns up the East Coast. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from areas along the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast on Wednesday and Thursday, but it's not clear yet when they will be able to return.
The Coast Guard planned a flyover at first light Friday to assess damage. On the ground, teams from emergency management departments have started to check for damage. So far, Dare County Emergency Management says there have been no reports of damage and no rescues.
Ocracoke Island may be the last location to which residents and tourists will be able to return; the ferries will not resume service to the island until the Pamlico Sound is calm enough to navigate safely.
The condition of Highway 12 will be a key factor in allowing people to return to the Outer Banks. Dare County Emergency Management. officials expect DOT crews to start working to clear the ocean overwash when the sun comes up. The overwash issue will continue to improve leading up to low tide at 8:44 a.m. For a list of the latest trouble spots on Highway 12, click here.
Currituck County officials expect the mandatory evacuation order for visitors on the Outer Banks section of the county to be lifted Friday. Law enforcement and fire crews went door-to-door, asking visitors to evacuate the northern area of the chain of barrier islands. Randall Edwards, the public information officer for Currituck County, says he estimates more than half of visitors heeded the call to evacuate. Edwards says a helicopter will fly over the county early Friday to assess damage, particularly in the Carova Beach area, where the water is up to the dune lines. Emergency management and law enforcement crews will be on the ground looking for damage before determining if visitors can return.
On the Crystal Coast, emergency management officials opened the bridges to the Bogue Banks at 5:30 a.m. Friday. Visitors and residents can now drive over the bridges to Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, Indian Beach and Pine Knoll Shores.