November 19, 2012

The wind blows, and the water flows


Strong north and northeast winds have battered Hatteras Island for almost a week now, and the ocean has continued to pour across Highway 12 and the four-wheel-drive route just west of the road at each high tide.

The video with this article, shot by Don Bowers at yesterday’s high tide, is pretty much how the area of north Mirlo Beach and the S-curves has looked for days.

The National Weather Service at Newport, N.C., issued coastal flood and high surf warnings last week, and they remain into effect until 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

After that, the winds will slowly subside into Thanksgiving Day, and the weather later in the week is forecast to be sunny and less windy.

Not much rain has fallen with the coastal low that formed off the southeast coast over the weekend and slowly moved northeast of the area. However, cloudy skies with intermittent light rain and drizzle have persisted for days.

The heavy winds without much rain to wash off the transmission lines contributed to a power outage early this morning on Hatteras and Ocracoke, according to Susan Flythe, vice-president and general manager of the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative.

Flythe said salt accumulation caused an insulator on the 115kV lines to fail north of Avon.  The outage lasted almost three hours from 3:36 until 6:27 a.m.

The four-wheel-drive route at the S-curves has been closed from three or four hours before and after high tide for the past several days. Before Saturday, closures at high tide were shorter.

High tide has been about mid-day, closing the route for much of the daytime.  Dare County Sheriff’s Department pilot cars have been escorting vehicles through the route before dawn and after dusk.

Even with the heavy northeast winds, the emergency ferry between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe has continued to run.  The ferry lines have been long at times, but everyone seems to be getting to and from Hatteras.

Sustained winds of 25 to 30 mph with gusts over 40 have been common on Hatteras and Ocracoke for three days now.  And creeks, marshes, and canals on the southern end of Hatteras have been filling up with water all day, though most of our soundside flooding occurs on northwest winds.

This evening, many islanders in Frisco and Hatteras villages were moving vehicles to higher ground “just in case.”

Even as the wind kept blowing and the ocean kept flowing over the northern Rodanthe area, the Dare County Board of Commissioners continued to discuss nourishing the beach in that area.

County manager Bobby Outten reported to the board that he had been looking into feasibility and costs as the members had asked him to do.

He said he had met with Nags Head officials and talked with a consultant on Nags Head’s 10-mile nourishment project, completed in 2011.

The consultant was familiar with the northern Rodanthe area and thought a nourishment project there was “doable.”

He estimated that it would take fewer than the 6 years it took Nags Head to study and complete the project, maybe three years, and that the cost would be about $20 to $24 million, about two-thirds of the cost of the south Nags Head project.

The commissioners instructed Outten to proceed with a request for qualifications from consulting firms for a possible Rodanthe nourishment project.

A nourishment project at Rodanthe is in the earliest stages of discussion.  The National Park Service generally opposes beach nourishment, but some commissioners have questioned whether the Park Service still owns the land in Rodanthe or if the property it once owned has totally eroded.

Also, there have been no discussions on how a Rodanthe nourishment project would be financed.

Also, last night, Warren Judge reported that Jim Trogdon, chief executive officer of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, met today with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel to discuss the future of Highway 12 through the S-curves.

No decisions were made, he said.  And NCDOT is still waiting until the ocean overwash subsides and it can determine how much room is left to restore the dunes and sandbags that were once there.

The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission has given the county permission to build the sandbag line higher and wider than it previously was.

Four-wheel-drive route information

Only four-wheel drives vehicles are permitted on the route.  There are checkpoints north of the Bonner Bridge and in Mirlo Beach in Rodanthe.

The route may well be closed around the times of high tide.  To find out road conditions on the route and on Hatteras, click on the flashing yellow icon at the top of the Island Free Press Front Page.

NCDOT asks motorists to follow these important safety measures on the four-wheel drive access:
  • Only drive four-wheel drive vehicles with a high ground clearance. Cross-over four-wheel drive vehicles that are lower to the ground may get stuck in the rugged terrain;
  • If you drive at night, use extreme caution. There will be no lights staged along the route, so your vehicle’s headlights will offer the only way for you to see;
  • Drive slowly; 
  • Pay close attention to the temporary traffic signals and
  • All four-wheel drive vehicles are encouraged to lower tire pressure to minimize the chances of becoming stuck.

Emergency ferry schedule

The emergency ferry is open to everyone, including visitors.
Those wishing to use the emergency route are reminded to expect waits and to be patient, as priority status is still in effect. Repair and supply trucks have priority at all times. Dare County residents have priority Monday through Friday.

The waits have been long – hours at times -- on the emergency ferry, which takes at least two hours to cross the sound.  You are advised to arrive early and be patient.  You might also consider bring water, coffee, soft drinks, and snacks.
The Stumpy Point-Rodanthe schedule is:
  • Departing Stumpy Point: 6 a.m, 8 a.m. 10 a.m., 12 noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m., and 10 p.m.
  • Departing Rodanthe: 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m, 7 p.m., 9 p.m., 11 p.m.

Ferry information is available by calling 800-293-3779 (BY-FERRY) and pressing 1, or via Twitter at

Directions to the Stumpy Point Emergency Ferry Dock at 100 Log Storage Road, off Highway 264:  Take Highway 64 to Highway 264.  Follow Highway 264 approximately 13 miles past the entrance to the village of Stumpy Point.  Signs for emergency ferry service are posted to ferry entrance that will be on your left. 

Directions to the Rodanthe Emergency Ferry Dock at 23170 Myrna Peters Road, Rodanthe:  Turn west off Highway 12 onto Myrna Peters Road, which is located just north of the Community Building in Rodanthe. 

Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry schedule

Visitors can now enter Hatteras Island via the Hatteras Inlet ferry. The ferry is still running every two hours.

The Hatteras-Ocracoke schedule is:
  • Departing Hatteras at 6 a.m., 8, 10, noon, 2 p.m., 4, 6, 8, 10 and midnight; and
  • Departing Ocracoke at 5 a.m., 7, 9, 11, 1 p.m., 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11.
For visitors wishing to come to Hatteras through Ocracoke, keep in mind that travel from Cedar Island to Ocracoke and Swan Quarter to Ocracoke requires a reservation by calling 1-800-293-3779.

Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferries

The ferries from Swan Quarter and Cedar Island require a reservation.

Many of the Thanksgiving week ferries are already booked, but the Ferry Division has added three more days of extra departures from each side on its Swan Quarter-Ocracoke route, to assist with Thanksgiving traffic. In addition to Nov. 21-25, travelers can now book the additional departures Monday, Nov. 19; Tues., Nov. 20, and Mon., Nov. 26.
The additional departures include:
  • Departing Swan Quarter at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and
  • Departing Ocracoke at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
As a reminder, the regular fall schedule on the Pamlico Sound is:
  • Departing Cedar Island and Ocracoke at 7:30 a.m., 10, 1 p.m. and 4;
  • Departing Swan Quarter at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and
  • Departing Ocracoke to Swan Quarter at 7 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
These same extra departures will continue to be offered on weekends as well, until Highway 12 reopens north of Rodanthe and the emergency ferry route is deactivated.

Ferry reservations can be made online at or by calling 800-293-3779 (BY-FERRY) and pressing 2. Ferry information is available via Twitter at

For schedules and reservations on the ferries from the mainland to Ocracoke, go to the N.C. Ferry Division website at The Ferry Division has been adding extra departures to and from Swan Quarter on the weekends.

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