December 13, 2012

Another northeast blow sets back highway
repair, but Christmas opening still possible


High winds, heavy seas, and a lunar tide combined this morning to shut down repair work and the four-wheel-drive access at the S-curves in northern Rodanthe.

The latest weather event to delay repairs to the road damaged by Hurricane Sandy in late October was “disheartening,” said Pablo Herndandez, North Carolina Department of Transportation resident engineer on the project.

“It will put us back a couple of days,” he said.

However, he added that depending on next week’s weather, it is still possible to open the highway to all vehicles before Christmas.

The northeaster last night and today was not much by Outer Banks standards, but the Highway 12 roadbed is sitting right next to the ocean, and it doesn’t take much to send the sea surging over the four-tenths of a mile area that needs repair.

The DOT plan is to replace the asphalt and sandbags in the area and pile up a new dune on top of the sandbags.

Hernandez said this evening that the ocean overwash had taken out much of the dune that had just been rebuilt over part of the area, but the sandbags didn’t budge.

The roadbed had been shaped and graded and marked with string to keep out construction vehicles during the repaving. Crews had expected to start laying down the new asphalt today.

That didn’t happen, and Hernandez said there is 8 to 9 inches of sand on the already prepared roadbed.

However, he said most of the survey stakes and pink flags on wire that outlined the new roadbed remained in place.

DOT crews and contractors will wait through another high tide tonight and one in the early morning, and then move forward, Hernandez said.

DOT has 15 or 16 dump trucks lined up to start hauling more sand from a pit in Avon to replace the dune flattened today.

Hernandez said that if all goes will, crews can just level off the roadbed again and proceed with paving.

However, all the work is weather dependent, and more foul weather is predicted for next week.

“We’re in a very active weather pattern,” said Chris Collins, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Newport, N.C.

Although the forecast is still in flux, Collins said we can expect more bad weather Sunday night into Monday and Tuesday night into Wednesday.

In both cases, he said, low pressure areas will form north of the Outer Banks, which decrease the chances for northeast winds, and that’s good news for the DOT crews at the S-curves.

Winds will be mostly southwest, briefly north, and then a period of what could be strong northwest winds on Wednesday.  Northwest winds aren’t as problematic for the road repair crews, but they can bring soundside flooding to Hatteras and Ocracoke.

Seas though will continue to be high much of next week, and that it is what will dictate the timetable to reopen the highway.

Hernandez says DOT plans to reopen the road to all vehicles when the paving is completed but that it will take another three to four weeks to get all of the 1,800 sandbags filled and placed.  So far about 600 have been completed.

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