Shifting sand continues to cause problems for returning the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferries to their original route.
However, the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division will add more runs on the route to handle increased demand during the coming Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Tests conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers late last month showed that in three areas of the Hatteras Inlet, sand had already started to shift back to areas dredged several weeks earlier. That made those areas unsafe for travel by ferry vessels, which need at least nine feet of water depth to operate.
Shifting sand in the inlet has been an increasing problem for ferry travel in recent years, creating issues where they did not previously exist. Part of this is a result of the number of hurricanes and northeasters that have hit the area.
It was an overnight storm on Jan. 18 that made the original route too shallow for ferries to travel safely and forced the N.C. Department of Transportation Ferry Division to switch to a longer alternate route.
The Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for keeping the inlet channel clear, is working to send a dredging ship to the site to address the problem.
A spokeswoman for the Corps told Island Free Press reporter Catherine Kozak earlier this month that the dredge Murden was expected to arrive about Saturday, May 18, and work for about six days.
The Ferry Division had already moved the Hatteras-Ocracoke route to its summer schedule on May 7, increasing the number of trips to 30 each way. And to accommodate increased demand for service with the approaching Memorial Day holiday weekend, another six trips in each direction will start on Tuesday, May 21.
Ferries will leave Hatteras at 5:15 and 6:15 a.m., then every quarter past the hour from 8:15 a.m. to 9:15 p.m., and 45 minutes past the hour between 7:45 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. There will also be trips at 10 a.m., and 12:30, 3, 7:30, 8, 10:45 and 11:45 p.m.
Ocracoke departure times are at 5, 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., at the top of every hour between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., on the half-hour from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and at 11:15 a.m., 1:45, 4:15, 6:45 and 9:15 p.m., and midnight.
Two other ferry routes serving Ocracoke, from Cedar Island and Swan Quarter, also switch to their busier summer schedule on May 21.
For more information, travelers can sign-up to receive messages on Twitter by going to www.twitter.com/ncdot_ferry or visit the N.C. 12 Facebook page.
For additional information, travelers can contact the departure terminals. The phone numbers are:
Ocracoke – (252) 928-1665
Hatteras – (252) 986-2353