March 15, 2018

Pea Island Visitor Center Reopens after March Storm Damage


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The Pea Island Visitor Center reopened on Thursday, March 15, after more than a week of efforts to get the site clear of sand and debris, and to make needed repairs after an early March nor’easter pounded the area.

“We were fortunate in that we really didn‘t sustain a whole lot of damage to the building itself - We only had a lot of sand and water wash up,” said Wildlife Refuge Specialist and Assistant Manager Art Beyer.

“It took us a little longer than we expected, just because we had that little nor’easter last weekend, but we are open again.”

Videos showing ocean waves pouring into the area went viral on social media during the early March storm, but despite the inundation of water, no major damage was reported. 

The boardwalk that leads to the building was dismantled during the nor’easter and has been temporarily replaced, and the sand that piled in the parking lots has - for the most part - been removed.

Though it’s hard to determine how much saltwater and sand accumulated at the Visitor Center during the height of the storm, Beyer estimates that the sand was 3-4 feet deep in some areas of the parking lot, and a foot deep in others.

Staff, volunteers, and NCDOT crews pitched in to help with the clearing efforts, and to get the Visitor Center back up and running.

“It’s like maintaining Highway 12,” said Beyer. “You get these storm events, and you just have to spend some time cleaning things up to get people back here, and this time it didn’t take us very long.”

Options to move the main visitor building and / or to strengthen it against future storms are being examined for the long term. But for now, only a little sand remains as staff work on the final tidying-up touches.

“The NCDOT was a great help, and they always are,” said Beyer. “We appreciate how quickly they can get the roadway back up and open.”

There still is a little sand, but most of it has been cleared, and the parking lot and center seems to be in good shape.”

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