December 11, 2012

Coastal low threatens Highway 12 repair


The National Weather Service in Newport, N.C., has issued a coastal flood advisory for minor ocean overwash, especially along Highway 12 in northern Rodanthe, from 7 p.m. on Wednesday until 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Weather Service forecasters expect a coastal low will develop off the southeast coast on Wednesday and track just off the coast into Thursday.

The pressure gradient between the low pressure near the Gulf Stream and high pressure over Pennsylvania will bring gusty northeast winds, rough seas, and heavy rain from Wednesday night into Thursday.

The Weather Service has also issued a gale warning for the coastal waters for winds that will increase to 25 to 35 mph and persist through early Thursday.  Seas are predicted to be in the 6- to 9-foot range.

There will also be high astronomical tides for the next few days because of the new moon.

The high seas and wind could play havoc with the North Carolina Department of Transportations crews and contractors who are repairing Highway 12 near the S-curves north of Rodanthe.

Pablo Hernandez, resident construction engineer on the project, said today that crews have made good progress toward the DOT goal of opening up the highway to all traffic on or before Christmas Day.

This newest storm, he said, was “unfortunate timing.”

“I’m not to a comfort level that I would like to be,” Hernandez said about the impending storm.

DOT work crews and contractors battled two northeasters after Hurricane Sandy passed by the Outer Banks in late October. Winds and ocean overwash continued from early November right through Thanksgiving.

By today, crews had placed about 500 of the 1,800 sandbags needed to create a protective barrier between the ocean and the road. Once all of the sandbags are in place, the dunes will be rebuilt on top of the sandbags.

Hernandez said he expects that placing the remaining sandbags will take about 3 to 4 weeks to place.

By today, he said, the old roadbed has been cleared of broken-up asphalt and graded and was almost ready for contractors to lay down the new asphalt.  However, that can’t happen now until after the storm passes.

Hernandez said he expects that the road will be reopened before the sandbag work is completed.

Currently, there is a four-wheel-drive only route through the four-tenths of a mile of damaged road at the S-curves, and that also could be threatened at high tide, especially on Thursday.  High tide Thursday is about 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The only other access to Hatteras Island is currently by ferry.
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