The headline on this blog could just as well have been ?Blah, blah, blah, and blah? because that?s the kind of winter we?ve been having.
Of course, everything is relative, and many of our readers to the north and west have had it much worse, but everything is relative. Most locals agree that the winter has been more relentless than any they can remember in recent times.
I?ve lived here 23 years, and I have witnessed cold spells with the sound frozen out as far as you could see ? a week or so of freezing, pipe-busting weather.
But this year has been different. Since the first of the year, we?ve had consistently cold, cloudy, windy, rainy miserable days ? with one or two nice ones thrown in to make us think maybe it was over.
Here we are at the end of the first week in March ? just two weeks before the official start of spring, and the wind is blowing northeast 20 to 30 with gusts over 55 mph. The wind has shifted now to a more northerly direction, still gusting over 50, and the sound tide is beginning to rise on southern Hatteras Island.
So far, Highway 12 is passable and we hope the storm will move out overnight without incident.
The news front has also been slow the past few weeks, but I do have a few things that are worth updating you on.
Will the circle be unbroken?
Several readers have commented on last week?s blog that they hope the old Cape Hatteras Lighthouse site will somehow be marked when the granite stones engraved with the names of the lightkeepers are moved.
I should have mentioned that Bett Padgett, president of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, says that she also wants to see the old site marked so that folks who climb to the top of the relocated lighthouse can see where it once stood.
Padgett suggested a flagpole or something of the sort to make the spot.
She would also like to see a buoy in the ocean commemorating the site of the 1803 lighthouse which was replaced in 1870 by a new, taller tower. The 1803 lighthouse was dynamited, though the foundation remained at the edge of ocean until into the 1980s. Eventually, a storm washed what remained into the ocean.
Some good news on flood insurance
The U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday evening passed a bill to curb some of the premium increases in the nation?s flood insurance program that have been causing ?sticker shock? for coastal property owners.
H.R. 3370, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, sponsored by Reps. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., passed 306-91 under a ?suspension of the rules? requiring a two-thirds vote in favor. The measure reverses some of the changes to the National Flood Insurance Program introduced by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.
The Senate passed its version of flood insurance legislation, S. 1926, in January by a 67-32 vote. The Senate bill takes a broader swipe at the flood insurance program and delays most of the reforms and increases of the Biggert-Waters law for four years. Key senators, including Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the sponsor of the Senate version, said they would accept the House bill.
Coastal property owners, however, still face exorbitant increases in premiums for homeowners? insurance, requested by the insurance companies.
N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin has set a hearing on that request for the summer, and the General Assembly is working on legislation that could offer help to homeowners.
Jackpot for the Ferry Division?
John Fletcher, Ocracoke?s representative to the Hyde County Board of Commissioners, has proposed slot machines on the sound ferries from Ocracoke to the mainland instead of raising tolls on those ferries and instituting a toll on the free Hatteras-Ocracoke route.
His proposal has been met with bemusement and some opposition.
Granted it would take a change in state laws to make this happen. However, it just might be a grand idea to raise funds for the Ferry Division at a time when the General Assembly seems fixated on more tolls and more tolls.
After all, the state already has a lottery, so it?s not that gambling is unknown here.
And how are slot machines any more outrageous than charging Ocracoke residents to go to and from their homes and slapping a toll on the free ferry that will bring economic disaster to the island ? and, to a lesser degree, to Hatteras Island?
News from Judge Boyle
U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle has scheduled oral arguments in the lawsuit that the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance has filed against the U.S. Interior Department and the National Park Service to overturn the 2012 off-road vehicle management plan and final rule.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Defenders of Wildlife and the National Parks Conservation Association, are defendant-intervenors in the case.
The lawsuit was filed in February 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It was transferred back to North Carolina by that court and assigned to Boyle.
Most of last year was spent with all sides filing their claims for summary judgment in the case and for the court?s setting of schedules for filing.
No party to the case asked for oral arguments, but the judge scheduled them anyway for Monday, March 24, at the federal courthouse in Raleigh.
Boyle oversaw the SELC case against the NPS Service, filed in 2007, over the lack of an ORV plan. That lawsuit ended in a consent decree in April 2008.
Most observers thought the case ended when the Park Service ORV plan became final, but Boyle has continued to have ?status hearings? in the case.
For the past five years or so, he has scheduled a status hearing after the Park Service releases its annual natural resource reports, which it did in early February this year.
Boyle has not scheduled a status hearing in that case, which is curious.
Perhaps he will cover that ground when all parties present their cases for summary judgment and he gets to ask questions and make comments.
Radio Hatteras: Coming to a dune near you
The really good news at this point is that more spring-like temperatures are forecast for next week.
And the further good news is that Radio Hatteras will have its debut next week.
Sometime toward the end of the week, the community, non-profit station will play the national anthem and go live on the air.
You can find Radio Hatteras, WHDZ-FM, at 101.5 and 99.9 on the FM dial.
The station will play music and is working on programming that includes news headlines and interview programs on community issues.
It is especially designed to play an important part in local emergencies, such as hurricanes, tropical storms, and northeasters.
The stations board of directors, led by Mary Helen Goodloe-Murphy, and its volunteers ? especially Mike Hennessey, Richard Marlin, and Lou Browning ? are pushing the envelope to make it all happen by the FCC deadline of March 15.
The station needs volunteers and funding.
Radio Hatteras memberships are $50 for a family, $25 for an individual and $10 for a student. Mail memberships and contributions to Radio Hatteras, P.O. Box 339, Frisco, NC 27936. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (252) 995-6000 for information about underwriting opportunities.
You can read more about Radio Hatteras on its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/radiohatteras. A website is under construction.
And you can click here to read an Island Free Press story from last October about the station.
So, we wish the best of luck to all of the volunteers working to bring Radio Hatteras to us as they furiously work to meet their deadlines.
And we look forward to better weather and to spring on the islands.