February 6, 2015

Diamond Shoals buoy is victim of coastal storm


The coastal storm that brought high winds to the Outer Banks and coastal waters yesterday has sent the Diamond Shoals buoy adrift. According to the National Weather Service in Newport, N.C., the buoy was cut loose from its moorings on Thursday, Feb. 5, and is still adrift in the Gulf Stream currents.

At 3 p.m. today, the buoy had traveled about 34 miles and was located about 40 miles east-northeast of Buxton. It continues to report wind and sea conditions.

"The buoy has drifted well away from Diamond Shoals and is no longer representative of the weather conditions near Diamond Shoals," the Weather Service said in an informational release. "Mariners are encouraged to use nearby land-based wind observations instead of Diamond Shoals."

It will continue to drift and perhaps report until it is picked up, the NWS said.

According to the Weather Service, winds in the area of the buoy gusted up to 58 mph yesterday as a coastal low pressure deepened and moved northeast over the coastal waters.  The gradient between the low pressure and a building high caused heavy northerly winds over the Outer Banks from Thursday afternoon into the night.

A wind advisory had been issued for Outer Banks Dare and Hyde counties, and winds in Hatteras village gusted to about 50 mph yesterday afternoon and evening. No coastal flooding was reported.

The buoy was located about 14 miles east of Cape Hatteras and marked for mariners the end of the Diamond Shoals, a series of offshore, underwater sandbars that have caused hundreds of shipwrecks over the past several centuries off the Cape.  So many ships wrecked in the treacherous waters that the area became known as "The Graveyard of the Atlantic."

The Diamond Shoals have been marked by a light to warn mariners for many decades.  For many years, the light was located on a ship with a crew.  That was followed by a Texas tower. The tower was manned in the beginning by the U.S. Coast Guard, but in its last years, the light and sea condition reports were automated.  In recent years, the tower was decommissioned and replaced with an automated buoy.

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