NAGS HEAD, N.C. — Tourists drifted back to the Outer Banks on Friday as Felix, the fat hurricane that scared but then spared coastal residents, wobbled farther out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Evacuation orders that had cleared about 200,000 people off the narrow barrier islands Tuesday were lifted Thursday, and by Friday morning merchants were ready for action. But the tourists hadn't caught up.
"A lot of people are still scared," said fishing pier employee Oakie Vermilya.
At one point Friday morning, only one fisherman was on the pier at Nags Head. Employees, who had taken all the fishing lures, rods and other stock out of the pier shop, moved everything back in. Outside on the beach road, a few people jogged or rode bikes under clear blue skies.
Elsewhere, business owners hosed off doors and windows and got ready for expected business. Hang gliders were set up at the Jockey's Ridge sand dune to let rental customers know that things had returned to normal.
In late afternoon, Felix--still a hurricane but packing winds only 1 m.p.h. over the 74-m.p.h. minimum--was about 450 miles east-northeast of Cape Hatteras. It was moving east at about 6 m.p.h.
Tropical storm-force winds, from 39 to 73 m.p.h., extended outward up to 290 miles from the storm's center.
Signs expressed local disdain for the storm. "Nothing But a Breeze," declared one, spray-painted on plywood sheets covering the windows of an art supply shop.
One visitor, Shirley Mason of Mears, Va., said: "I'm glad we could come back and salvage what's left of our vacation."
Gary Ford of Washington, Pa., stood on the beach at dawn waiting for the orange ball of the sun to break past a bank of low clouds.
Ford and his family had fled to Petersburg, Va., taking 90 minutes to drive 16 miles at one point in the slow exodus Tuesday. It took only three hours to return and resume their vacation.
Red "No Swimming" flags were still posted Friday to keep people out of the rough surf.
At least nine people have been killed or are presumed dead in the tempest brewed by the hurricane.
Two of the victims were brothers, ages 13 and 11, who were swept away while wading Thursday in Irvington, N.J. Their father ran into the water in an attempt to save them but had to be rescued himself.