Tropical storm brought heavy surf and gusty winds, but few problems

WILMINGTON -- Tropical Storm Michael blew in Thursday to a Cape Fear region still recovering from Hurricane Florence and blew out without inflicting much more damage.

Michael made landfall Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane, causing catastrophic damage in Mexico Beach and other communities along the Florida Panhandle.

The storm weakened to a tropical storm as it tracked north, with its center passing over Central and Northeastern North Carolina.

In the state’s southeastern corner, additional winds caused some minor damage, with debris blowing off at least one downtown Wilmington building and the Cape Fear River spilling onto Water Street. Area beaches reported little to no additional damage along beach strands that sustained erosion during Florence.

 “I think we were spared," Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair said. "Nobody is in a panic out here."

Unlike Florence, which drenched the region while moving as slow as 2 mph, the remnants of Michael moved around or slightly above 20 mph throughout Thursday. The storm’s speed meant limited impact from rain in the Wilmington region.

The region’s heaviest rains from Michael were recorded around Belville, with 2.64 inches, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), but the 0.57 inches in southwest Leland and 0.35 inches in Wilmington were more typical.

“Speed makes quite a lot of difference in terms of rainfall,” said Victoria Oliva, a meteorologist at the NWS’ Wilmington office.

Michael’s strongest winds in the region included 58 mph in Kure Beach and 54 mph in Oak Island, according to the NWS. Wilmington saw maximum gusts of 53 mph.

In Surf City, where debris from stairs and boardwalks remained scattered across the strand, Mayor Doug Medlin Thursday morning said the impacts were limited to some minor overwash on the town’s north end.

“The majority of what we are going to get is probably right now,” he said. “That’s good because we don’t need another one.”

Holden Beach in Brunswick County also sustained minimal damage from Michael’s tides and winds, Mayor Alan Holden said. Holden toured the beach strand about 2 p.m. and said some boardwalks had been washed out on the west end, but the beach had otherwise weathered the storm.

“It looks like it’s in good shape,” he said of the beach strand. “We probably lost a little bit of sand, but it’s too early to tell how much.”

About 4,400 Duke Energy customers in New Hanover and 1,400 in Pender county lost power early Thursday afternoon. In Brunswick, 2,280 Brunswick Electric customers were without power.

In anticipation of Michael, Brunswick and New Hanover counties canceled school Thursday, with Brunswick remaining off on Friday. Pender County Schools, which sustained major damage during Florence, remained closed.

Another impact lingering into Friday will be flights, with American Airlines canceling its first three flights out of Wilmington International Airport. Gary Broughton, the airport’s deputy director, said the first American flight to depart will be at 7:09 a.m. to Charlotte. As of 4 p.m., Delta planned to announce on a normal schedule and United had not made a final decision.

Reporters Cammie Bellamy contributed to this story.

Reporter Adam Wagner can be reached at Adam.Wagner@GateHouseMedia.com.