March 3, 2010

Dare’s new Web feature on road conditions
likely to be tested tonight and tomorrow


Dare County’s Web site has a new feature that will give residents and visitors up-to-date, real-time information on road conditions in the county.

And the test of how well the feature works may come tonight and tomorrow as another coastal storm threatens the area.

The National Weather Service in Newport, N.C., has issued coastal flood warnings for the possibility of ocean overwash on Highway 12 in gale-force northeast winds and then soundside flooding from Ocracoke to Rodanthe when the heavy winds go northwest as the storm passes us by and deepens offshore.

Dare County Sheriff Rodney Midgett announced the new road conditions feature in a media release yesterday.

“With the help of the county’s Information Technology Department,” Midgett said, “telecommunicators at Dare Central Communications’ 911 Center now have the ability to enter current road conditions for any street or highway in Dare County to alert the public of hazardous conditions or even temporary road closures 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Midgett said that when Dare Central Communications receives reports on hazards such as ocean overwash, soundside flooding, snow or ice, or even a serious motor vehicle accident or a major fire scene that would temporarily cause a road to be closed, the telecommunicators can now update the Web page to provide “the most up to date information that’s available to the public.”

Midgett said that all emergency services workers in Dare County – including deputy sheriffs and other police officers, firefighters, and Emergency Medical Service and rescue squad personnel -- have the authority to direct that information be added to the site for any street or highway in the county, including the streets within the towns.

“This new feature was developed so that with just the click of a mouse, anyone can get the most accurate and up-to-date information about the roads in Dare County,” Midgett said.  

The sheriff noted Communications Center supervisors have been trained on posting by the county’s Information Technology Department.  It’s not a complicated process, he said, and even if it takes a few minutes of time to post, he thinks it will reduce the volume of calls to the Communications center during weather events.

Midgett added that other road closures from such events as traffic accidents will also be listed on the site if the closure will be 30 minutes or longer.

The first test of the new system is likely tonight into tomorrow.

The National Weather Service predicts northeast winds of 30 to 40 mph with gusts to 45 tonight, turning more northwesterly in the early morning and blowing at 30 to 40 with gusts to about 50.

Coastal flood advisories are in effect from tonight through 1 a.m. Thursday for minor ocean overwash and minor soundside flooding.

And while we are on the subject of the weather, let’s take a look at the long, cold winter on Hatteras and Ocracoke.

If you think it’s been one of the coldest winters you can remember, you are not imagining it.

Meteorologist Belkys Melendez said today from the NWS office in Newport that the winter has been one of the coldest on record, though she couldn’t say it has been the coldest ever.

The high and low temperatures, she said, have consistently been at least five degrees below the normal highs and lows for January and February.  Looking at the Weather Service climate data for Cape Hatteras, the highs and lows have often been 10 or more degrees below normal for the past two months.

Melendez says we can thank the El Niņo for our miserable winter.

The El Niņo weather pattern, she says, brings more wet weather, more clouds, and colder temperatures to our area.

Though it probably contributed to fewer hurricanes than expected last summer, it has brought us more coastal storms this winter.

We started with a northeaster in mid-November that tore up Highway 12 near the S-curves in north Rodanthe.  We had another storm just after Thanksgiving that brought soundside flooding.

In January and February, we’ve had a coastal storm every week or two.

Along with El Niņo, Melendez says, has come positive Arctic oscillation, which is a weather pattern that delivers cold air from the Arctic to the middle latitudes around the globe.  It has been unusually cold and long-lasting this winter.

This causes the jet stream to dive further south, letting cold air penetrate the southern areas of the country.  Low pressure areas develop to our south or southwest and move up the East Coast, bringing Gulf of Mexico moisture with them and resulting in our coastal storms and the snow storms and blizzards for our northern neighbors.

Melendez says the end of the week – Saturday into Monday – is forecast to bring us “a brief moment of near normal” with high temperatures in the 50s.

However, she adds that the Climate Prediction Center forecasts that the cooler and wet conditions will last for the rest of the winter and into spring.


You can find the Dare County Web site’s road conditions feature at

For more information on the cold, wet winter, and Arctic oscillation, go to

Local climate date is available at

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