Hurricane Maria's path along the coast of the U.S. eastern seaboard is forecast to cause unsafe surf and rip currents in coming days.
In North Carolina, officials expected conditions to improve quickly on the Outer Banks as Maria races east, so schools can reopen, sand can be removed from roads and the ferries that provide access to Ocracoke Island can begin running again.
There was a storm surge warning from Ocracoke Inlet to Cape Hatteras and a storm surge watch from Cape Hatteras to Duck.
A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for Ocracoke Island and Hatteras Island visitors.
All tropical storm and hurricane warnings have been dropped for the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Visible satellite image of Hurricane Maria at 11:22 a.m. Tuesday. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers research station in Duck was reporting steady winds of about 40 miles per hour.
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Forecasters said the storm would gradually weaken over the next few days.
"Maria" has diminished to Tropical Storm status (winds below 74 mph). A tropical storm watch also was in effect for other areas.
Lee remains a Category 1 hurricane.
In addition, the storm will generate large waves and unsafe rip currents - not just in North Carolina, but along the entire East Coast and in Bermuda, the Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas. The storm mainly lashed North Carolina's fragile Outer Banks, with high water and waves pounding the islands from both sides. It will then head east back into the Atlantic away from North Carolina and the United States through the rest of the week.
The National Hurricane Center said an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft measured Maria's top sustained winds at near 75 miles per hour (120 kmh), with higher gusts. This zone can expect rain, gusty winds and periods of coastal flooding through early Thursday.
Hurricane Lee, meanwhile, strengthened to a major Category 3 hurricane in the open Atlantic, where it was swinging north and east before damaging winds could reach Bermuda.
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