August 7, 2018

Days After July’s Record Rainfall,
Problems by the Point Remain


Though the majority of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands are finally dry after an inundation of record-breaking rainfall, Lighthouse Road near Cape Point and the Cape Point Campground are still struggling with leftover standing water.

The Cape Point Campground, which temporarily closed on July 25 because of the heavy rains, remains closed despite a hopeful August 6 reopening date, and it is not yet known when the campground will be clear enough to open once again. (All other Cape Hatteras National Seashore campgrounds in Frisco, Ocracoke, and Oregon Inlet are currently open for visitors.)

In addition, the tail end of Lighthouse Road just before the entrance to ORV ramps 43 and 44 still has standing water, which may make navigation difficult for low-clearance vehicles. Potholes have also formed in this section of Lighthouse Road, close to the ramps’ entrances, which may not be immediately visible.

“Once the water clears, we will address the potholes in this section of Lighthouse Road,” said Michael Barber, Public Affairs Specialist for the National Parks of Eastern NC. “But for now, visitors should use caution, as the potholes are difficult to see.”

Currently, the road to the South Beach Pedestrian Beach Access that cuts through the Cape Point Campground is also closed, but CHNS reports that rangers are checking the area every day to see if access can be reestablished.

The Inside Road in between ramps 44 and 49, though open, also has standing water on the southern end near Frisco, and ORVs are advised to travel along the beach in between ramps 48 and 49 instead.

Flooding in the region close to Cape Point is unfortunately nothing new, and the surrounding wetlands combined with the low-lying nature of the area and a lack of a drainage system has caused high waters to linger in this corner of Buxton before. In 2016, record rainfall from the otherwise forgettable tropical cyclone Bonnie closed the campground for several weeks, due to 7-8 inches of standing water that lingered well after Bonnie had left the area

This recent wave of wet weather has caused a much larger influx of rain than the 2016 campground closing, with July 2018 easily having the most monthly rainfall in the past 50 years. As a comparison, the National Weather Service recorded a total of 20.31 inches of rain at Cape Hatteras for July 2018, while the monthly average of rainfall for July is around 4.99 inches.

And while the rest of the island is relatively clear, with only mosquitos and nearly-full roadside ditches left behind, the Cape Point Campground is still a reminder of the more than 10 days of consecutive rainfall.  

“When you get this much rainfall, there are very few systems that can handle this amount of water,” said David Hallac, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent, “and this area shows what [20+] inches of rain can do.”

The silver lining is that recent elevation projects for ramp 44 and ramp 49 have been successful, and these two routes for off-road vehicles remain high and dry, and readily accessible. “It’s good to see that the improvements we have made at these ramps has resulted in easier transportation on and off the beach,” said Hallac.

The Cape Point Campground and Lighthouse Road next to ramps 43 and 44 will continue to be monitored, and will be repaired as needed once the water eventually subsides.

For now, visitors to the area should continue to use caution, and to be on the lookout for the lingering remnants of July’s overabundance of water.

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