| April 2, 2013
Ocracoke Real Estate: Are we ever going to catch a break?I
have often felt like the Lone Ranger, living in one of the small
communities in which our livelihoods, homes, and property are totally
at the mercy of the weather. When you are in the middle of it, you
think that you are the only one. I’ve had to pull my blinders back to
look at the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the entire East Coast, the
droughts in the Midwest, and the increase in the tornadoes in the
However, for us on Ocracoke, the fight has been harder lately.
have always been accepted and integrated into the cost of living on the
island and/or the cost of doing business. There was a point in our
history when cleanup after a storm was the most pressing task, and
getting the word out to the public that we were “up and running again”
was the gravest business concern. More recently, within the past 10
years, we would have to include ocean overwash or new inlets being cut.
We’ve lost direct access to Highway 12 for a month or so at a time.
Recovery was taking longer, but there always appeared to be an endpoint.
winds of 35 mph are the kiss of death for the lifeline we call Highway
12. We’re back to needing sharper and more centralized lines of
communication because the road conditions are changing so rapidly.
Opened, closed, passable but through saltwater, four-wheel-drive only,
closed after dark -- these are the words we hear when inquiring about
passage to a doctor’s appointment or any other purposes off the island.
You might be able to get off the island, but you should always have a
backup plan for being stranded on the return.
It’s crazy to have
to check the tide charts to determine if there is enough water for the
ferry to move through the channel. The same high tide that would get
you from one island to the next might be too much water for the
S-curves in Rodanthe. Ultimately this winter, we were without a
Hatteras ferry option. The channel had filled in, and the boat would
This frustration has everything to do with Mother
Nature and absolutely nothing to do with the North Carolina Department
of Transportation. The highway and ferry crews have worked tirelessly
to keep up with the weather. The Swan Quarter Ferry put on extra runs
to be able to guarantee the residents, vendors, and guests access to
the island. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flew over the inlet
between Hatteras and Ocracoke and found a new channel to use while the
main one is being dredged. The new route takes longer, but that is
minor in the bigger scheme of things. Thankfully, this has all occurred
during the down time of the winter.
But our fears about
weathering another storm are exacerbated by a few other problems. That
dang recession has gotten its dirty fingers into everything. The
discretionary income of our guests has had a bite taken out of it. They
desperately want to come but maybe have less to spend on the extras,
such as gifts, beach clothing, services, or dinners out. I am going to
venture that the recession also has had its effect on the dollars
available to maintain the dredging of the channel. A dredge in the
Pamlico Sound used to be such a common occurrence that we all took it
Take the recession and add access to the island
that is often interrupted as an additional worry. Heaven forbid that
too many people start listening to the negative press and make the
choice not to visit the island as a result. Hand-wringing abounds. The
flow of day tripper traffic must stay open for the business community
to stay alive all along Highway 12.
Ah, but there is more. Our
new North Carolina legislators have decided that our ferry traffic must
foot more of the bill for the service of being transported to the
island. That might sound rational until you think of that ferry as the
road to the door of your house. It sounds to me as if the state is
shooting itself in the foot when you think about the amount of revenue
generated for the state coffers from The Outer Banks.
shop owner and I were discussing these issues when we both
simultaneously came out with the same phrase: “How much more can we
take?” Outer Bankers have always been a resilient people because they
have to be. But if life on the island were a prize fight, you might
fear that you would not be able to stay on your feet for the next round.
these fears begin to circle, I feel that I can count on the power of
the voice of Dare County. The Governor and his secretary of
transportation flew into Manteo for an NC DOT hearing a few weeks ago.
These guys were immediately put into a four-wheel-drive vehicle and
taken down to the S-curves in Rodanthe. They spoke with Dare County
officials and residents for two hours. I’m keeping my fingers
In an effort to maintain the faith,
I also try and remember the passion that our guests have for the
island. People fall in love with Ocracoke, and I’m banking on this
being a connection that will not be affected by tolls, long lines, or
longer ferry rides.
I am hoping that they will come -- in numbers enough to weather one more storm.
Oelschlegel has lived on Ocracoke Island for more than 30 years and has
worked in the real estate business for almost as long. She is a
broker with Ocracoke’s Lightship Realty and a real estate columnist for
The Ocracoke Observer. You can reach her by e-mail at [email protected])