updated 9/12/2007 11:33:12 AM ET 2007-09-12T15:33:12

North Carolina's first tropical storm of the year did virtually nothing to ease drought in the few coastal counties it touched, so the state's hopes turned to a forecast of scattered storms in the mountains.

But those, too, aren't expected to bring enough rain to ease dangerous dryness across North Carolina.

"Widespread precipitation is not expected," said Larry Lee, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greer, S.C.

Life returned to normal — sunny, warm normal — on the Outer Banks as anemic Gabrielle on Monday weakened from a tropical storm to a tropical depression and moved away from the coast.

Rain would be especially good news for the Raleigh area, where temperatures have reached or exceeded 90 degrees for 73 days this year, breaking the record of 72 such days set in 1953, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

The entire state is in drought, with the driest areas in western and central counties. Agriculture has been particularly hard-hit.

Ten of the state's 13 U.S. House members have signed a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, asking for help in securing financial assistance to North Carolina farmers affected by the drought.

"Estimates indicate the state would need more than 15 inches of rainfall during the next six months to return to adequate levels," the letter, dated Sept. 7, says.

Gov. Mike Easley has also asked for federal aid.

Gabrielle, the first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season to reach North Carolina, did not provide the relief many sought when it made landfall along the Cape Lookout National Seashore on Sunday morning, then passed back into the Atlantic near Kill Devil Hills less than 12 hours later.

Precipitation only reached a handful of eastern North Carolina counties, and significant rain fell in only isolated spots.

The storm had "little to any" impact on the drought, said Dave Loewenthal, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington. "None virtually."

Along the Outer Banks on Monday, the National Park Service reopened campgrounds and other sites. Highway 12 near Salvo was passable after being closed for about three hours overnight due to 1.5 feet of water from Pamlico Sound covering parts of the road.

Ferry service to Ocracoke Island resumed Monday morning, said Department of Transportation spokesman Ernie Seneca.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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