November 26, 2012

Seas calm down over Thanksgiving weekend



The gray skies, high winds, and heavy seas from low pressure systems off the coast finally gave way to sunshine and just plain old breezy conditions on the day after Thanksgiving.

Travelers on Highway 12 faced obstacles from long ferry lines, to a few cancelled ferries, to intermittent overwash on the four-wheel-drive only route around the S-curves just north of Mirlo Beach in Rodanthe.

But there were visitors here for the Thanksgiving holiday, and, for the most part, they didn't seem to be complaining about the trip or the weather.

The high tides stopped overwashing the four-wheel-drive route on Saturday, and traffic on the route was reported to be heavy on both Saturday and Sunday.

Today, on its Highway 12 Facebook page, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said that while surf conditions have calmed considerable, normal high tides are still at the edge of the broken up roadbed.

Sandbag installation began today at the south end of the S-curve area, and DOT said engineers will be looking at the trouble spots today and tomorrow and evaluating options for restoring traffic through the area to all vehicles.

Paving work still needs to be done on the Bonner Bridge and the Pea Island Inlet Bridge.

The four-wheel-drive route is open from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. Before dawn and after dusk, a pilot car from the Dare County Sheriff's Office is escorting vehicles through the area.

Also, two enterprising Hatteras entrepreneurs with flatbed trucks were loading up vehicles without four-wheel-drive and trailering them over the sand road.

Island Free Press photographer Don Bowers who shot photographs at the S-curves and Mirlo Beach on Friday and on Sunday said that quite a few vehicles were getting stuck in the sand – many because of driver error. Some smaller four-wheel-drives were also having problems.

Bowers' video was shot at high tide on Friday, Nov. 23, and shows the four-wheel-drive route and contractors filling sandbags around the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative's power poles at northern Rodanthe.

DOT reports the emergency ferry route between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe was busy, especially on Sunday as visitors were leaving.

Fog on Friday and electrical problems on Sunday caused several cancellations on the sound ferry routes between the mainland and Ocracoke.

The days of northeast wind has taken its toll – again – on the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry. Two ferries did not run today at low tide, which was about midday, because of shoaling in Rollinson Channel in Hatteras Inlet.

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 bringing 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.

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.

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



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