CAPE HATTERAS, N.C. -- A hurricane for only one day, Dennis was downgraded to a tropical storm again today as it thrashed harmlessly through the Atlantic, threatening only shipping.
The storm, which grew into a hurricane with 75 mph winds after it left the Carolinas coast Thursday, weakened to 55 mph this morning in the open Atlantic and lost its hurricane status.
At 6 a.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Dennis was centered at latitude 38.0 north, 65.5 west, about 450 miles south-southwest of Halifax, Novia Scotia. It was expected to keep moving east-northeast at 30 to 40 mph all day.
Gales extending out 250 miles to the south and 200 miles to the north of the center. Forecasters said the storm was diffuse and was expected to weaken as it moved rapidly in the ocean.
'Dennis is a threat only to shipping,' the hurricane center said in its latest advisory, adding that rough seas and high tides in Virginia and Maryland would gradually decrease today. Forecasters advised small craft to remain in port.
Dennis, which poured much-needed rain on drought-parched Florida, did little or no damage to the coasts of North and South Carolina as it flailed its way northward. Police reported power out in a few sections of North Carolina's Outer Banks and some flooding of roads.
At Myrtle Beach, center of South Carolina's Grand Strand, Chamber of Commerce spokesman Ashley Ward said area motels, restaurants and other businesses lost about $2 million when 40,000 tourists fled the coastal area.
Officials at Lakewood Family Campground said they handed out between $2,000 and $3,000 in refunds to about 500 campers who left to escape the storm.
But police said Thrsday their chief problem was a traffic jam caused by tourists fleeing the coastal resort at the approach of the storm Wednesday.
'It did no more harm than a good summer rainstorm,' Myrtle Beach police officer Woody Chenault said.
'There was some water in the streets and it was pretty high in a few low spots. But we really had hardly any damage at all.'
Despite the 4-6 inches of rain that Dennis dumped alog the coast, its 50-mph winds caused few problems. 'This was a fairly moderate storm,' said Lawrence Roush, chief ranger at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Forecasters are already keeping watch on another depression in the Atlantic, 300 miles east of Barbados, that could develop into a tropical storm.
Two people died in a traffic accident in North Charleston, S.C., as a result of Dennis' rains, and another was killed in Florida.
Before Dennis moved north, it dropped as much as 20 inches of rain on south Florida -- although the heavy rains mostly missed drought-dry Lake Okechobee, the primary water source for the 4.5 million residents on the state's urban southeast coast.
But forecaster John Hope at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Lake Okeechobee might still realize some indirect benefits from the storm.
'Dennis left the air over the Florida Peninsula very moist. That's likely to result in more rainfall over the lake than there would have been without the storm,' he said Thursday.
As Hope was speaking, an afternoon thunderstorm over the Kissimmee River valley, a watershed for the lake, caused the South Florida Water Management District to cancel its plans tocontinue cloud-seeding.
The lake level, water management authorities said, has risen about 6 inches as a result of the storm.