Gabrielle Slaps North Carolina's Outer Banks, Downgraded to Tropical Depression

Gabrielle, struggling to stay organized as it pulled away from the North Carolina coast, weakened from a tropical storm to a tropical depression early Monday, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm lost many of its rainmaking clouds over land, and its maximum sustained winds weakened to 35 mph over cooler water as it moved farther out over the Atlantic Ocean.

At 5 a.m. EDT, Gabrielle's center was located about 140 miles north-northeast of Cape Hatteras.

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The storm's small center made landfall along the Cape Lookout National Seashore as a Tropical Storm at around 11:45 a.m. Sunday, then passed back into the Atlantic near Kill Devil Hills less than 12 hours later, increasing spead to 12 mph from 10 mph.

Other than some inconvenient winds, light road flooding and a bit of welcome rain, Gabrielle left tourists and surfers largely unimpressed.

"If you think of what might have been as it approached us, I would say that we're in very good shape," said Dorothy Toolan, a spokeswoman for Dare County Emergency Management.

Although some isolated spots had significant rainfall — including more than 8 inches in Beaufort — precipitation only reached a handful of eastern North Carolina counties.

The entire state is gripped by drought, particularly in western and central counties, and there was hope the first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season to reach North Carolina would provide some relief.

"We're glad we didn't have any flooding or wind damage, but the rain would have been nice," said Julia Jarema, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. "The coast got some rain, but they were the ones with the least problems from the drought."

The National Weather Service said 1.5 feet of water from Pamlico Sound covered parts of Highway 12 near Salvo, a common spot for overwash, but that the roadway was still passable and the surge would subside overnight.

Ferry service to Ocracoke Island that was suspended Sunday afternoon was to resume Monday morning, Jarema said.

Gabrielle developed into a subtropical storm Friday before spinning into a full tropical system Saturday. The system had spent several days stalled in the Atlantic along an old frontal boundary.

"This has given us a little practice run for hurricanes," said Currituck County spokeswoman Diane Sawyer. "You don't wish to have a storm, but if you have to have one it's a good one to have."