After faking thousands into evacuating the Outer Banks, fickle Hurricane Felix drifted farther out to sea Friday as residents trickled back home and wondered whether they would have to do it all over again.
"We took 'em down, we can put 'em back up," Bill Shaver said philosophically as he removed boards from the windows of his Pigman's Bar-b-que restaurant. "It's been a strange one."It could get stranger if the storm turns back toward the coast. The National Hurricane Center warned that the storm that dawdled offshore for days "may just be executing a clockwise loop."
At 11 a.m., Felix was about 350 miles northeast of Cape Hatteras, moving east at 6 mph. Its winds were at 75 mph, just 1 mph over hurricane strength. Forecasters expected little movement for a day or two.
People began returning by road and ferries Thursday after hurricane warnings were dropped for North Carolina and Virginia and authorities lifted an evacuation order for the thin crescent of Outer Banks islands.
Later, even tropical storm warnings were dropped, but forecasters said people along the East Coast, from North Carolina to southern New England, should still monitor the hurricane's moves in the next few days.
Gary Ford of Washington, Pa., was one of many vacationers that chose to fight the traffic back onto the Banks on Thursday. He was out at 6 a.m. Friday, waiting for sunrise at South Nags Head. Watching the surf gently roll up the shore, Ford said it was not the same angry sea that drove him away just days earlier.