The land of summer sun and fun becomes
By ANNE C. BOWERS
An unexpected snowstorm blanketed the Outer Banks with snow on
Saturday, Jan. 22. Only the eastern edge of North Carolina
the white stuff, starting at the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet and
stretching south towards Morehead City, N.C.
Saturday’s weather forecast for Hatteras called for about an inch of
snow in the grassy areas that was to begin in the afternoon.
by 10 a.m., it was snowing seriously and in spite of temperatures that
were just above freezing, it was sticking to more than just
grass. Around midday, the North Carolina Department of
Transportation trucks were treating Highway12.
Those of us who came from up north noted that the skies were a solid
single shade of gray, what we refer to as a “snow sky.” The
temperature dropped slightly in the early afternoon, and the flakes
grew larger. Many scheduled activities were cancelled because
the snow, a rare occurrence on Hatteras.
Inch by inch, the heavy snow accumulated and was barely affected by the
30 mph winds. It looked like a blizzard outside and showed no
signs of letting up. A quick check on the local radar proved
the forecasters got this one wrong. The snow line was
the Outer Banks and looked like it would continue deep into the
evening. And it did.
The ferries stopped running around noon because of the snowy
fog. Most businesses closed early so all workers could get
while they still could. Locals who still had their outside
Christmas lights up turned them on, and island looked like a winter
Those who ventured out after dark faced very limited visibility as the
snow continued to dump on the island, accelerated by strong
winds. Even though Highway 12 showed signs of being plowed,
was time for four-wheel-drive. The smart ones stayed huddled
home for the evening and took pleasure in just looking out the window
at the freak blizzard raging outside.
About 11 p.m., the snow stopped. Going to bed reminded me of
Christmas Eve because I couldn’t wait for morning to see what the
island looked like covered with this much snow.
I awakened around 5 a.m. and looked outside. The winds had
lightened significantly and stars twinkled in the predawn
This was perfect!
My husband, Donny, and I left the house at 6:30 so he could take
pictures of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the pristine
Bundled in layers of clothes and lacking a good pair of snow boots, we
began our day.
Only Highway 12 had been plowed since the snow stopped.
the road was dangerously slick with a sheet of plowed frozen
slush. The drive to the lighthouse took much longer than
because 20 mph was as fast as we were willing to go.
The eastern horizon was painted in shades of purple, orange, and pink
as our truck made the final turn into the lighthouse parking
The three-quarter moon still hung brightly over the black-and-white
sentinel whose light was still turning round and round. The
was clean, crisp, and cold. The winds had quieted and the
of silence was deafening.
Cameras and tripod were drawn from the truck so this moment of beauty
could be captured and shared. I sucked in every aspect of the
morning as the camera shutter began clicking furiously.
The lighthouse beacon went dark, and the moon began to fade when the
rising sun began its job of pumping light, heat, and energy into the
At the base of the lighthouse was a snowman! It wasn’t big or
symmetrical or particularly well dressed, but this was a real snowman
on Hatteras. In my pocket was a Santa’s hat which I had just
case. Voila! He became a handsome snowman as the
rays showered him with light.
Having thoroughly explored and photographed the lighthouse area, we
drove out to the beach where the sand dunes were barren on one side but
thigh deep snow on the other.
Driving on the beach in snow proved to be difficult. The wind
blown the snow into the tracks making it deeper than usual.
truck was working too hard, and we canned any thoughts of driving to
Cape Point. The conditions were wrong.
Williams, who owns an island towing service, told us later that he
towed a few trucks off the beach in the storm.
We returned to Buxton, where the island was springing to
New sounds filled the air -- tires spinning, snow crunching underfoot,
and the scraping noises of snow being moved.
Hatteras may not be equipped for this much snow, but the islanders were
quick to adapt. In the absence of snow shovels, brooms,
cardboard, spades, and boards were employed to clear the
Ace Hardware in Avon was open for business and selling 50-pound bags of
salt for $9.99. But, they only had two shovels that were
for snow removal.
Piles of plowed snow lined the edges of public areas as the island dug
out. Small tractors and front end loaders cleaned the parking
lots at churches, grocery stores, and gas stations.
We made a perfunctory stop at Frisco Pier to see how it fared during
the storm, and it seemed unchanged by this latest weather event.
By mid-morning, the ferries had the ice cleared from their boat decks
and resumed service to Ocracoke.
The closer to Hatteras we got, the less snow we saw. In our
travels, it seemed that north Frisco and Buxton got 2 to3 more inches
of snow. In the flat protected areas, we measured 8 inches
The Hatterasman Drive-In was open for breakfast and trucks filled the
parking lot. The folks there were busier than they had
“Snow makes everybody so excited,” said Marcella Miller as she took our
order for breakfast.
This excitement was certainly mounting as we returned north.
boys dressed in red coats pummeled each other with snowballs, which
were easy to form with this wet snow. Workers at Hatteras
rolled snow into the beginnings of a snowman. Kitesurfers
attached snowboards to their feet and used the remaining wind to speed
across the land.
A woman was cross-country skiing along Highway 12 in Frisco.
Young children and men alike could not resist the temptation of
throwing themselves backwards into the snow and making a snow
angel. Clad in neoprene from head to toe, the surfers were
trying to catch a wave in front of the snowy beach.
The road back to Buxton was wet and slushy as temperatures climbed
quickly. Trees shed the weight of the white stuff, which fell
like snowballs. In a jerking motion, the bent trees began to
Snowmen were popping up everywhere, as friends, co-workers, and
families had fun making something out of the sticky snow.
Considering the lack of experience in this snowy art, the people of
Hatteras pulled out all stops to make great-looking men of
Lemons, tennis balls, plastic cups, pine cones, and bobbers were all
creative alternatives for the traditional eyes of coal. Lips
made from bent cherry licorice sticks and hazelnuts dotted into
smiles. Pine branches were used to make Mohawk
hula skirts, and arms. Each and every one of them was a
The snow storm was a happy event for the islanders, and, by all
accounts, it created little, if any, inconvenience for
course, this was because it was Sunday.
Gosh, I love snow!
here for slide show by Island Free
Press photographer Don Bowers