The coastal storm that brought high winds and soundside flooding to Hatteras last Wednesday, March 6, is long gone, but heavy surf has continued to pound the island, closing Highway 12 for hours at high tide for the past five days.
And the heavy seas could continue to close the road at high tide – perhaps into Wednesday.
Highway 12 was closed overnight and this morning. It opened again about mid-afternoon with law enforcement roadblocks, one-lane traffic, and a pilot car leading travelers through the Pea Island area.
The road will close again at 7:30 p.m. and remain closed until after high tide tomorrow morning, which is about 9 a.m. After the tide recedes, officials will assess the condition of the highway, clean it up again, and open it as soon as possible.
About the only good news about the highway has been that the roadbed is apparently not seriously damaged or compromised.
According to North Carolina Department of Transportation and county officials, there is slight damage to the asphalt on the south side of Pea Island Bridge. At that point, traffic has been one lane. However, the repair is not expected to take long once the overwash stops.
The main headache for travelers has been that DOT crews have had to close the highway to clean sand and water off the pavement after every high tide since last Thursday.
The coastal low that moved offshore of the Virginia-North Carolina border last Wednesday was a slow mover as it headed northeast. Meanwhile, a high pressure over the Great Lakes kept North Carolina sandwiched in a pressure gradient with high winds.
Waves and swells continued to build all last week and were as high as 10 to 15 feet – with some up to 20 feet – over the weekend.
There was ocean overwash over Highway 12 in Kitty Hawk, at the Pea Island Inlet Bridge, the S-curves and Mirlo Beach, north Buxton, and on the northern end of Ocracoke. There were also reports of some overwash east of Hatteras village on Saturday night.
Almost all of the sand dumped on top of the sandbags at the S-curves in northern Rodanthe has been washed away, but the bags have held up and more sand will be trucked into the area when the overwash stops.
The sandbags were “buried” in the beach after Hurricane Sandy and did their job of acting as a bulkhead to break the big waves before they hit the highway.
Casey Dail, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Newport, N.C., says the seas are forecast to slowly come down tonight. The Weather Service’s high surf advisory, which forecasters have kept extending, now ends at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning.
However, Dail says a cold front will approach the coast tomorrow from the west with strong southerly winds of 20 to 25 knots and that seas will continue at about at 7 to 9 feet until at least Wednesday.
The irony that Tony Tata, the new DOT secretary, will be having a town hall meeting tonight in Manteo has not been lost on Hatteras islanders who won’t be able to go unless they stay all night.
Tata will speak after a three-hour DOT informational meeting on its recommended long term solution to bridging Pea Island Inlet.
Late this afternoon, it was reported that Gov. Pat McCrory will also attend the meeting.
Meanwhile, DOT’s Ferry Division has added an extra departure each way on the Swan Quarter-Cedar Island run to accommodate travelers who want to leave Hatteras and Ocracoke.
The following additional departures will continue daily until normal conditions resume on Highway 12:
From Ocracoke to Swan Quarter at 10 a.m.
From Swan Quarter to Ocracoke at 1 p.m.
Ferries will also continue to depart at the following regularly scheduled times:
From Ocracoke to Swan Quarter at 7 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
From Swan Quarter to Ocracoke at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The division will continue to monitor traffic demands and additional runs may be added as necessary.
Travelers can call 800-293-3779 (BY-FERRY) and Press 1 for up-to-date ferry information, or sign up to receive Tweets on their personal cell phones by going to www.twitter.com/ncdot_ferry.
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