January 28, 2016

Winter storms are taking a toll on seashore
beaches, ORV access routes


The winter's northeasters are taking a toll on Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches, causing erosion and the closure of some ORV access ramps and areas.

Earlier this week, the Park Service announced that last weekend's northeaster, with its high seas and pounding shorebreak, has carved escarpments -- or cliffs -- some as high as 4 feet on Hatteras Island's east-facing beaches.

Ramp 25, a new ramp just south of Salvo, was closed on Tuesday because there was a 4-foot cliff on the ocean side of the access.

Hatteras Island District Ranger Joe Darling said today that Ramp 32, another new ramp, had been closed for the same reason -- a 3- to 4-foot cliff blocked access.  However, the ramp was opened today after the shelf on the north end of the ramp was reduced to about 12 inches, allowing ORVs easier access.

Darling also said today that access from Cape Point Campground -- former Ramp 45 -- to the Inside Road was opened because 12 to 18 inches of floodwaters between Ramps 44 and 45 are keeping that part of the Inside Road Closed. Opening the old Ramp 45 is a temporary measure to allow better access to the Inside Road, Darling said.

He said that the Inside Road is dry from the former Ramp 45 to Ramp 49.  The end of Lighthouse Road and most of Cape Point Campground have standing water that varies in depth -- up to 6 inches at the deepest.

"On a positive note the beaches near Ramp 43 and Ramp 44 have improved with respect to flattening out and creating a safer path along the shoreline to Cape Point," Darling said.

Northeasters last fall had caused serious erosion and steep escarpments between Ramps 43 and 44 and between Ramp 44 and Cape Point. Driving to the Point was challenging at times, especially at high tide, and the Park Service was advising drivers that they could travel on the beach at their own risk.

Pedestrians and drivers on the south-facing beach at Hatteras village also report beach erosion and dunes sliced in half vertically by the heavy shorebreak. Many of the houses along the village beach have lost their staircases over the dunes.

"We lost numerous vertical feet of sand as well as numerous horizontal feet of dune line with recent storms and lots of debris is on the beaches," Darling said. "Numerous staircases, sand fences and pilings are washing ashore along the beaches.  Please use caution as conditions are changing daily."

Rangers are also checking beaches daily and reopening closed ORV ramps and routes as quickly as they can.

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