Hurricane Irene Aftermath
September 9, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...

BRIDGING THE GAPS: High seas from Katia suspended road work Thursday night


“We would be a lot further along if it wasn’t for Mother Nature,” offered DOT project inspector Milton Joyner.

Hurricanes continue to be problematic for Highway 12, which was severed in multiple areas by Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27.  Yesterday, Hurricane Katia stayed well offshore of Hatteras Island but pushed some mighty rollers to the area, which aggravated the rebuilding efforts to this vital road.

During the low tide that occurred around midnight on Wednesday night, Waff Contracting from Edenton, N.C., reset the existing protective sandbags to provide a more even line of defense to the Mirlo Beach area, which is located in northernmost part of Rodanthe.

Equipment problems hampered efforts to make new sandbags to secure the area where Mirlo Inlet came through.

During the same time, drivers worked late Wednesday night hauling enough sand about five miles north to the southernmost breach on Pea Island.  Barnhill Contracting said its crews succeeded in connecting the sections of roads in that area around midnight.

Earlier in the week, the northernmost breach on Pea Island was linked up with the remaining highway.  Even though the Mirlo Beach area continues to be challenged by the persistent ocean, three areas have been filled which leaves the major task of filling the New New Inlet on Pea Island near the ranger station.

Rebuilding efforts at Mirlo Beach suffered a small setback at the first high tide on Thursday, which happened just before dawn.  Some of the repairs were lost, which temporarily made the single lane sand road impassable for a short time but crews got it repaired and then spent the day shoring up just this area.

Conditions got rough Thursday afternoon when Hurricane Katia came within a couple hundred miles of the coast.  Fueled by a high tide at about 5:30 p.m. and a lunar tide, the area at Mirlo Beach was yet again under fire, and nature was undoing what man had just done.

Waves were breaking hard over the sandbags and washing over the single lane sand road, displacing the wooden walk mats again.  Water poured through the area and made its way towards the sound.

Around 3 p.m., travel across this area was abandoned, and crews pulled back where the oceanfront houses are located to regroup and re-strategize.

The heavy equipment started working again after a short break to defend the area south of the large Mirlo Beach sign.  At least 60 more truckloads of sand were piled in this one area to protect the area south of where the sandbag barricade stopped. 

The drivers who were lined up on a side road waiting for their turn to dump sand were parked in ocean overwash that poured in between the line of oceanfront houses.  Pilings, boards, and other debris had to be removed by hand before the trucks could move forward to the new battle line.

Workers were anticipating a night off because there wasn’t much that could be done until the ocean backed off.

Work continues at the New New Inlet on Pea Island as crews ready the area for the temporary bridge.  Large cranes can be seen working on the area. 

This growing inlet suffered more erosion at the hand of Hurricane Katia.  On Thursday afternoon, the ocean was visibly racing through the inlet towards the sound.  Water was also pushing outside of the inlet into breached areas but the crude sand road seemed to be unaffected.

Since Irene, the seas have not cooperated with the rebuilding efforts for Highway 12.  Strong northeast winds filled in shortly following Irene’s exit and lasted for three days.  Then came the big swell from Hurricane Katia, coupled with an approaching lunar tide. Locals are now following the movements of Tropical Storm Maria, which has been difficult for forecasters to predict but feel that it could come close to the East Coast.

There are a lot of people, not just on Hatteras Island, who could use a break from the weather right now.

(The photos in the slide show were taken at Mirlo Inlet in northern Rodanthe and at New New Inlet five miles north on Pea Island.  The cranes and other equipment across the inlet are working on a temporary bridge.)


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