Hatteras Island was mostly quiet on Friday evening, with local grocery store parking lots moderately full, as islanders made last-minute preparations for an upcoming weekend storm that is expected to bring ocean overwash, coastal flooding, high winds, and heavy rains until early next week.
The imminent nor’easter, which is expected to peak on midday Saturday, has the potential for storm surge inundation of 2 to 4 feet above ground level, with locally higher amounts possible for oceanside areas of the islands, and areas adjacent to the southern Pamlico Sound. High surf, beach erosion, and ocean overwash are all forecast for the beaches of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, with the most significant impacts expected north of Cape Hatteras.
“Starting with the high tide tomorrow morning, we are expecting flooding,” said Meteorologist Shane Kearns of the National Weather Service Newport / Morehead City office. “The unique part of this storm is that it’s going to be moving very slowly. We’re going to see strong winds over a 48-hour period, so that’s going to cause the elevated impacts we’re currently looking at.”
The approaching mid-November storm will echo if not exceed the effects of Subtropical Storm Melissa, which caused island-wide oceanside flooding and closures of N.C. Highway 12 in the middle of October. “This one is closer to shore,” said Kearns. “Each storm is different, and we’re looking at significant impacts with this one.”
Conditions will continue to deteriorate on Friday night into Saturday, as the strong and complex coastal low lingers over the Outer Banks area. The National Weather Service (NWS) Newport/Morehead City office has issued a Coastal Flood Warning from 7 a.m. Saturday until 1 a.m. Monday, a High Wind Warning from 7 a.m. Saturday until 5 p.m. Sunday, and a High Surf Advisory, from 7 a.m. Saturday until 1 p.m. Monday.
Persistent and strong north to northeast winds with gusts of 60-70 mph are possible along the coastline. Offshore peak wave heights of 15-24 ft. are also forecast with the coastal storm, as well as 6-10 inches of total rainfall for Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.
Oceanside flooding is a definite concern, but soundside flooding is also a possibility, and especially for the southern Outer Banks.
“With the strong northeast winds, the soundside impacts are going to probably be on the south end of the islands – Hatteras village and Ocracoke village,” said Kearns. “With the northeast winds, water can get funneled and trapped there [more easily] than in some of the other parts of the islands.”
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) cautioned in an earlier press release that portions of N.C. Highway 12 could be closed for extended periods during high tide cycles over the next few days. As of 6 p.m. on Friday evening, N.C. Highway 12 was reported to be passable throughout.
Dare County Emergency Management urged the public to take final preparation steps now, and to avoid travel if possible, in a Friday evening update. “Residents, visitors and business owners should be alert for rising water and should take action now to protect themselves and their property. Travel will become hazardous and conditions may make N.C. Highway 12 impassable in some areas this weekend into Monday.”
For information about current road conditions from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), visit drivenc.gov or dial 511. When dialing 511 on weekdays from 8:15 a.m. to 7:45 p.m., weekends from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., callers speak directly with an operator who can answer traffic and travel-related questions. Overnight and during emergencies, travelers should go to DriveNC.gov for the latest travel information. For real-time travel information, visit DriveNC.gov or follow NCDOT on social media.
For more information on the local forecast, visit www.weather.gov/mhx for weather information, or the National Weather Service office in Newport / Morehead City’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NWSMoreheadCity/.
The Island Free Press will also provide updates on the storm and road conditions as soon as they are available.