October 4, 2014

Ocean overwash is problem again at
temporary bridge, north Buxton


At Saturday's high tide, about 5 p.m., traffic was down to one lane on Highway 12  south of the temporary bridge at Pea Island Inlet as ocean overwash flowed across both lanes of the road.

Traffic was also slowing down at the Cape Hatteras Motel on the northern edge of Buxton, where water covered both lanes of the highway and was pouring into the oceanside parking lot.

The high tides yesterday afternoon and this morning also sent saltwater over the road in both locations.

And it's possible that the high tides will continue to be problematic for the next few days as we head toward a full moon on Wednesday, Oct. 8, according to the National Weather Service in Newport, N.C.

Seas were running 4 to 7 feet, and up to 9 feet at one offshore buoy.

This afternoon, NWS meteorologist Bob Frederick said that the higher-than-normal tides are being caused by the combination of three factors.

One is that tides are running about a foot higher than normal all along the North Carolina coast.  Meteorologists think that is being caused by about two weeks of persistent northeast onshore winds.

A second factor is a high astronomic tide ahead of the full moon. And, finally, a very distant deep low pressure system in the North Atlantic has been sending a swell toward the U.S. coast.

Though the northwest wind with the passing cold front is expected to increase seas to 5 to 9 feet, Frederick said that hopefully the wind shift will send the wave energy away from the coast.

However, astronomic tides will continue to rise each day until the full phase next week and then will gradually subside, bringing a possibility of continuing overwash.

Overwash in the area of the temporary bridge was also a problem for several weeks last month.  Then, the overwash was caused by swells from distant Hurricane Eduoard and before that by a high astronomic tide at the full moon.

On Saturday, Sept. 20, N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata toured the area and said that the department was seeking a short-term solution to the overwash problem.

"We are aware of the problem and are evaluating options," Jerry Jennings, Division I engineer, said in an e-mail. "The most likely short-term solution will involve construction of a berm through that area.

"We are currently coordinating with the USFWS and other regulatory agencies," he added. "This work will also have to be coordinated with the planned construction activities. We would plan to implement this work as soon as possible."

Today, NCDOT workers were clearing sand off the road and directing traffic into one lane. Vehicles were backed up in both directions.

Drivers should slow down in areas of overwash and move slowly through the water, so as not to splash the corrosive saltwater all over their own vehicles and others.

DOT also has its webcam on the south end of the temporary bridge back online at http://www.ncdot.gov/traffictravel/.

The heavy seas are also causing risks for swimmers.  The Weather Service issued a beach hazard statement for today for a high threat of rip currents and a heavy waves breaking right on shore. For information on Sunday's beach conditions, go to the Weather Service website at http://www.weather.gov/mhx/  or see the NWS Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NWSMoreheadCity.

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