Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands still had patches
of ice and snow roughly a week after a winter storm slammed the Eastern
Seaboard, bringing record cold temperatures and a deep freeze.
Parts of the Pamlico Sound were still frozen as
of Wednesday morning, although the recent “heat wave” of mid-40s
temperatures thawed large portions of the islands’ waters.
The thaw is forecasted to continue for at least
the next few days, with temperatures reaching the 50s on Wednesday, and
climbing up to the 60s by Thursday.
All Dare and Hyde County offices and services
were open on Wednesday, and Dare County Schools resumed on Tuesday
after roughly a week of closures immediately following the winter
The storm was a brutal one, which affected the East Coast from Florida to Maine.
During the past seven days of January, more than
2,205 minimum temperature records were broken across the country, which
included one on Hatteras Island where a record low temp of 19 degrees
was tied on Sunday, January 7.
Per the National Weather Service’s summary of the
event, the storm and the ensuing freezing technically began on December
26, 2017, when a prolonged period of Arctic air initially moved into
eastern North Carolina, and a persistent long-wave trough kept cold air
locked in across most of the eastern United States.
During the early morning hours of January 3,
2018, surface low pressure that developed off the east coast of Florida
began to rapidly strengthen and move along the Gulf Stream off the
Carolina coast during the late evening hours of January 3 and the
morning hours of January 4.
With the very cold air in place, and with rapid
intensification of the low, precipitation developed quickly during the
late afternoon hours of January 3. With some warm air aloft, the
initial precipitation was in the form of sleet and freezing rain
inland, and primarily rain along the coast, which was heavy at times
with almost an inch of rain in some areas.
As colder air wrapped around the developing low,
precipitation became all snow by midnight and fell heavily at times
into the early morning hours of January 4. Initial ice accumulation was
up to 0.2 of an inch, while snowfall amounts ranged from about 2 inches
along the coast, up to nearly 8 inches inland.
The overall storm produced blizzard conditions up
and down the East Coast from north Florida, where light snow, ice and
sleet occurred, to Maine, where more than 2 feet of snow occurred.
The storm was also accompanied by very strong
winds. As the low was rapidly strengthening off the North Carolina
coast in the early morning hours of January 4, gusts of 78 mph were
reported at the offshore Diamond Shoals buoy. These strong winds
produced blowing and drifting of snow, and a period of blizzard
conditions along the Outer Banks.
There was still light ice on the roads as of
Wednesday, particularly on side streets and in the northern Outer Banks
area. Soundside flooding associated with the storm also caused minor
damage to N.C. Highway 12, particularly in between Avon and Buxton
where chunks of the shoulder had been unceremoniously removed by the
Locally, the deep freeze of the Pamlico Sound,
local harbors, and creeks and ponds was the big story, as numerous
photos surfaced of folks walking on water throughout the islands. The
freeze caused many residents’ water pipes to freeze as well over the
weekend, but Monday and Tuesday’s thaw brought relief to hundreds of
homeowners who had been without running water since as early as
On Tuesday, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore
urged all visitors and locals to be cautious around frozen bodies of
water. Warmer temperatures in the area have started to thin ice that
may have been safe enough to walk on over the last few days.
Considering that the Pamlico Sound remained
frozen for roughly .75 miles offshore, islanders can expect to continue
to see patches of ice even as temperatures continue to climb. It was an
unusual event to be sure, especially considering that saltwater freezes
at a lower temperature. (While fresh water freezes at 32°F (0°C),
seawater freezes at 28 °F.)
For more information on the historic storm, as well as the upcoming warmer weather, visit www.weather.gov/mhx for forecast information, or the National Weather Service office in Newport / Morehead City’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/NWSMoreheadCity/.