November 25, 2015

High tides, heavy seas cause closure of ORV route to Cape Point


The National Park Service closed the ORV route to Cape Point this morning because a large northeast swell has made conditions on the beach in the area unsafe for vehicles.

The persistent northeast swell, combined with large, breaking waves and an astronomical high tide around tonight's full moon, have caused significant beach erosion on the Buxton beach.

Hatteras Island district ranger Joe Darling reported this morning that the high tides have carved out two major escarpments -- drop-offs of about 4 feet -- in two areas of the beach. One is between Ramp 43 and Ramp 44 and the other is between Ramp 44 and Cape Point in the area known as the Narrows.

He said he watched several trucks this morning that were heading to the Point and driving in soft sand below the high tide line. They were sinking deep into the soft sand and fish-tailing. He said both trucks made it through the first eroded section but turned around and did not try the second section.

Darling also said that the beach was on a considerable slant below the high tide line, and the Park Service had a report that a vehicle had rolled over in the area last night.

NPS, he said, has closed the beach because of the unsafe conditions, but will monitor the area over the weekend and reopen it as soon as possible.

Ramp 44 has been closed since it was flooded in severe storms in early October, and recent heavy rains have added to the flooding.  Ramp 43 remains open, but is basically a cul-de-sac with no access to the north or south.

Pedestrian access to Cape Point remains open.

Also, Ramp 48 officially open for ORV use on Monday, so both Ramp 48 and 49 in Frisco are now open.  However, a vehicle-free area south of Cape Point prohibits access to the Point from the Frisco area.

The National Weather Service in Morehead City is forecasting a persistent east-northeasterly fetch that will result in building long-period swells by late week.  The swells, combined with high astronomical tides, will continue to produce high surf and minor coastal flooding and beach erosion on east-facing beaches.

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