Relief for US as Maria and Lee move east following a month of hurricane misery
Maria was finally racing east in the Atlantic on Thursday, giving the United States a rest from the constant threat of tropical weather for more than a month.
No injuries have been reported on the US mainland with Maria, which mainly lashed North Carolina's fragile Outer Banks with high water and waves pounding the fragile islands from both sides, washing over the only road connecting Hatteras Island to the mainland.
While Maria's most punishing hurricane-force winds remained offshore, tropical storm-force winds extended for as much as 230 miles from the centre, churning up the surf on both sides of the islands.
Maria moved slowly on Monday and Tuesday before accelerating out to sea late on Wednesday and weakening to a tropical storm early on Thursday.
Officials expected conditions to improve quickly on Thursday on the Outer Banks, so schools could reopen, sand could be removed from roads and the ferries that provide access to Ocracoke Island can begin running again.
By Thursday morning, Maria was centred about 275 miles east-northeast of Cape Hatteras.
Since Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico on August 24, forecasters have been watching the Atlantic for likely threats to the United States or the Caribbean islands.
But the National Hurricane Centre predicts that Maria and Hurricane Lee, which strengthened to a major category three hurricane on Wednesday before weakening to category two in the open Atlantic, were both heading quickly east into colder water and away from the region.
Maria struck Puerto Rico, its category four winds devastating the island.