Travelers using the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route could encounter suspensions and weight restrictions due to extreme shoaling of the Hatteras Inlet channel.
The shallow channel situation has created a safety issue that requires constant monitoring by the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division.
For the past several weeks, operations have been suspended daily during low water.
A ferry was aground in the channel on Wednesday, Dec. 26, for almost four hours until it was freed by the rising tide. A ferry also ran aground yesterday.
The shoaling in the channel has been an ongoing issue, but Hurricane Sandy, two back-to-back northeasters and several winter wind storms have contributed to the problem.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to resolve the situation, as the channel falls under federal jurisdiction. A dredging contract has been issued by the USAC to address the channel shoaling and work is commencing, but it could be several weeks before the dredging alleviates the problem.
“Visitors to our area need to be apprised of the situation,” stressed Ferry Director Harold Thomas. He is calling upon local residents, businesses, restaurants, motels and vacation home rental agencies to assist in spreading the word.
“Getting people where they need to go safely is our top priority and we want to get the word out that conditions at the inlet can change in an instant,” Thomas said.
Travelers can sign-up to receive messages on Twitter by going to www.twitter.com/ncdot_ferry or call the Hatteras terminal at 252-986-2353 for updates.