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Ophelia Weakens, Moves North

The snail-paced Ophelia, downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, picked up speed and moved out to sea Friday after a three-day drenching that was far less severe than many had anticipated.

Ophelia continued a trek toward New England as a tropical storm warning was issued for Massachusetts. Parts of those states may get one to three inches of rain and tides could be one to three feet above normal.

In North Carolina, coastal residents to the south, where the storm's gusty wind ripped apart businesses and damaged homes, were hit hardest.

"It just beat us and beat us and beat us," said Laurie Garner, whose boyfriend's restaurant was severely damaged at Salter Path on Bogue Banks, south of the Outer Banks.

While the storm's center was staying off shore, rain bands were continuing to move over the Outer Banks, the National Hurricane Center said. But the center's 8 a.m. bulletin said that the tropical storm warning remains in effect from Cape Lookout, N.C., northward to the border of Virginia, including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.

Gov. Mike Easley said gauging the scope of the damage was difficult because of the storm's slow path, first affecting the state's southeastern coast on Tuesday and then crawling north and east Wednesday and Thursday.

"It's almost like working three different storms," Easley said.

Ophelia was downgraded to a tropical storm and its sustained winds dropped to 65 mph, the hurricane center said early Friday.

More than 9,600 homes and businesses remained without power early Friday in eastern North Carolina, utilities said, down from a high of more than 200,000. But the mainland has not seen the severe flooding many feared.

However, The Early Show's Dave Price says the East Coast is not out of danger. Waters along the shoreline are expected to kick up dangerous rip currents and beach erosion is also a concern.

"I've been coming down here for 25 years — this is nothing," said Tim Kifer, 51, of Chicago, who stopped by a marina in Manteo to check out the waters of Roanoke Sound.

A moment later, a jogger plodded by along the docks, seemingly oblivious to the hurricane swirling off the coast.

Some decided to take advantage of the churning surf to have a little fun.

David Goddard, 58, of Ashburn, Va., stood on the beach in Nags Head, watching his 32-year-old son Josh wade into the foamy water up to his calves.

"He's fearless," Goddard said with a grin.

The storm was blamed for one traffic death. Earlier, a surfer disappeared in rough water off the coast of South Carolina.

On the Outer Banks, Dare County officials said Hatteras Island reported gusts to 95 mph. Other than power outages, the island was in pretty good shape, said county spokeswoman Sharon Sullivan.

Ophelia, which looped and meandered north since forming off the Florida coast last week, was picking up speed early Friday, moving northeast at about 8 mph, the hurricane center said. At 8 a.m. EDT, Ophelia was centered about 100 miles east-northeast of Cape Hatteras.

CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports that if regular folks were caught off guard, the government was determined not to be, blanketing the region with relief workers well before the storm hit.

President Bush issued a state of emergency in 37 North Carolina counties to allow the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to act quickly,

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A tropical storm watch was in effect for southeastern Massachusetts, including Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, as well as for southeast Nova Scotia.

Ophelia is the 15th named storm and seventh named hurricane of this year's busy Atlantic season, which ends Nov. 30.

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