Image: High waves
Gerry Broome  /  AP
A couple walks along the beach as heavy surf comes ashore in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., Thursday.
updated 9/25/2008 6:10:11 PM ET 2008-09-25T22:10:11

Strong winds kicked up rough surf Thursday as an intense low-pressure system chugged toward the Southeast coast with wind gusts of up to 40 mph, knocking out power to thousands of homes in Virginia.

Minor flooding was reported along the coast from South Carolina to Virginia and forecasters expected more flooding during high tide Thursday evening.

In Wrightsville Beach, vacationers Bill and Linda Schweikert from Stow, Ohio, snapped photos of gray, head-high waves in brisk 30-mph winds.

"Lake Erie doesn't do this very often," said Linda Schweikert, 62, a retired teacher. "It is pretty."

The storm was about 100 miles southeast of Wilmington at about 4 p.m. EDT. National Weather Service forecaster Steve Pfaff said the storm should make landfall late Thursday night near Myrtle Beach, S.C. Winds should diminish after raking the eastern and central parts of North Carolina later Thursday. He said the center of the storm should be in central North Carolina by Friday morning.

"It does not have any tropical characteristics, but it is still an intense nor'easter," Pfaff said.

The weather service said there was a high risk of rip currents along the northern South Carolina coast and warned "no one should enter the water through Thursday night." Forecasters said the surf would be rough and chaotic with waves reaching 7 feet for the next couple of days.

The warning didn't scare away tourists at Briarcliffe RV resort just north of Myrtle Beach, S.C. The park was 85 percent full, the resort's manager blamed it on the economy, not the weather.

"It's been real breezy winds and it looks like the gusts have been up to 25," said resort manager Kelly Wilford. "It's been light rain all morning, but nobody is panicking."

People were walking along the beach, but no one was going in the water, said Barbara Crawford, the manager of the nearby waterfront Viking Motel. "It's just kind of a cruddy day," Crawford said.

In Charleston, squalls spun in from the ocean early Thursday and motorists were warned to drive carefully across tall bridges in the area because of crosswinds.

Late Wednesday, there was more than a foot of water at some downtown Charleston intersections at high tide and there was flooding in the popular City Market with its shops and open-air stalls.

On North Carolina's Outer Banks, state Highway 12 on Hatteras Island was reopening around noon for several hours before tides rose again. Dare County officials said the ocean would cover the low-lying road during high tides over the next 36 to 48 hours.

“The effects of it are being felt from the Southeast in Florida all the way to the Northeast,” said forecaster Rick Neuherz at the Wilmington weather bureau.

A movie premier of “Nights in Rodanthe” went on as scheduled on the Outer Banks on Wednesday night for locals who were extras in the film, said tourism bureau chief Carolyn McCormick.

The storm also caused flooding and power outages in portions of Hampton Roads, Va., and prompted restrictions on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

About 6,000 homes and businesses were without power Thursday, most from Norfolk to Virginia Beach. High water closed streets and bridges along some coastal towns.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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