October 17, 2016

Matthew’s Lesson

Filed under: Outer Banks,Pamlico Sound,storms,Weather — j0jgvm89bj @ 6:41 pm

With technological advances, weather forecasting has become better and better, but it’s still an inexact science. Nothing could teach that much more than Hurricane Matthew. Watching the weather radar and getting updates, tropical cyclones almost become living organisms. They are complex, and influenced by multiple meteorological mechanisms.

I’ve learned to take forecasting with some reservation, because most storm track predictions change over time as different atmospheric conditions interact. Here at home, I began monitoring Matthew as it became a hurricane on September 29th.

When Cape Hatteras was in the cone of possibility, I thought of boarding my windows, but overnight the forecast changed heading it out to sea, well to our south, even circling back toward Florida. Matthew defied that forecast, deviated somewhat, but continued its northward march along the coast. Still predicted to turn seaward, it headed northeast toward Cape Hatteras, and I was hoping it wouldn’t go up the Pamlico Sound, like Irene. Despite the warnings, our Dare County Control Group decided not to call for an evacuation of tourists or residents, and it turned out to be a bad decision.

Waiting for the turn that didn’t come, I went to bed Saturday night with a lowering barometric reading of 994 millibars. Onshore gale force winds blew that night with a little rain. Morning became more calm until about 5 AM, when we were awakened with an abrupt change of wind direction from the north and gusts near 90.

Matthew, despite predictions to be a tropical storm was still a hefty category one hurricane as it caromed off the Cape and out into the open Atlantic. By the time I checked the barometer again it was daylight and read 986 millibars. The wind gradually subsided throughout the day.

It was a close call for residents of Waves. Most everyone underestimated what this storm would do, and it could have been a lot worse for us. Our neighbors in Hatteras and Ocracoke were not so lucky.

soundEven at 11 that morning, the Pamlico Sound was still pretty rough.

houseI designed my house to shed gales from the north, so it fared well. There was  some standing rain water, a few broken branches and that’s it.

center-line                                 The tide rose just enough to overflow the ditches and spill over on to the highway.

ncdotWorkers from NCDOT are always on the scene quickly, salt water or not.

beachThe ocean was not as much a problem as was the Pamlico Sound.

uprootedThe main damage was with uprooted trees….

outer-beaches…. and broken, blown over signs.

truckThe biggest signs went down the hardest.

sunsetThe day ended better than it began, with a sailors’ red sky delight.




September 11, 2016

Hermine in Memorium

Filed under: beach,Outer Banks,Pamlico Sound,storms,Weather — j0jgvm89bj @ 3:30 pm

Since our latest tropical system passed recently, it gave me pause to think about all the others that have come before. The first for me was Hurricane Carol in 1954. My family lived at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and my father, a meteorologist for the Navy Weather Service, was gone on a reconnoissance flight out over the Atlantic. The hurricane tore off the back porch of our house and as the eye of the storm brought calm, my mother took us to a safer haven at a neighbor’s house. Even though I was very young, I remember it so well.

After consulting a climatology report on tropical cyclones affecting Cape Hatteras, I found over two dozen that have become memories in my life. Some like Gloria, Emily, Dennis, Isabel, Irene and Arthur had an impact. Others like Belle, Josephine, Gabrielle, Bob, Felix, Bonnie, and Hanna had lesser consequences.

Hurricane Hermine made landfall on the Gulf Coast of Florida and bore down on the Outer Banks as a tropical storm. Hatteras Island was right in it’s path.

cloudsTall cumulous clouds announced the storm’s approach, and we took the available time to clean up the yard and secure items worth saving. I set up my barometer to gauge the power of Hermine, and went to bed that breezy evening. About 2 AM, I was awakened by an east wind and rain beating my house. At times it must have been gusting to 60 or more and I could hear what some call the sound of a freight train. My barometer was at 1004 millibars.

radarI went back to sleep and when I awoke at around 6:30, there was no wind or rain. It was a beautiful, sunny morning. Incredulous, I checked the barometer that read 992 millibars, the lowest of the storm. I knew then we were in the center of the action.

sunnyThe only water on highway 12 was from about 6 inches of rain that Hermine brought. I saw people jogging by and I greeted one of them with a good morning. Her response clearly indicated that she thought the storm was over, but I knew we were in for a bit more on the backside.

beachThe beach north of the pier was nearly empty, and the blue sky overhead was surrounded by storm clouds. We were involved with the eye for over 4 hours. Then the wind switched and picked up from the opposite direction. We began hearing reports of storm surge flooding in Hatteras, Frisco, Buxton and Avon.

soundIn the thick of it I decided to check the sound shore of my property. The marsh was white-capped and under water. In the northerly winds, I had a hard time standing up, shooting and getting back to the house.

horizontalNext day, still under the influence of Hermine offshore, I photographed around a Pea Island dune that had shown the effects of the wind.

blowout                                          A blow out through the dune made some interesting patterns both vertically and horizontally.

duneLike many other storms, Hermine brought some silver-lined photo-ops.




August 17, 2016

Bird’s Eye View of the Tri-Villages

Filed under: aerial photography,Outer Banks,Pamlico Sound — j0jgvm89bj @ 2:47 pm

Last month I had a request for an aerial photograph of the tri-village area. That got me digging into some old images. Views from above are dramatic and show how isolated we are, surrounded with water.

In January of 1985, we had a severe cold snap, and the Pamlico Sound froze out as far as one could see. It was frustrating to photograph from land, so I hired a pilot to take me up to an elevated vantage point. That was the first time I did any aerial photography.

1985The spectacular view of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo from 7,000 feet showed the massive ice flows in Pamlico Sound.

1989Later during a 1989 northeaster, I shot from 1,000 feet over Salvo.

1991While airborne in 1991, I made some fair weather photographs of the village.

2011My latest aerial shot with a similar perspective was taken in the Fall of 2011.

My how this place has grown!

July 12, 2016

Wilbur Gaskill

Filed under: buildings,Outer Banks,People — j0jgvm89bj @ 2:00 pm


From the very first time I visited the island, Ocracoke has always struck a cord with me. On an excursion to the village in 1978, I was wandering the back roads near Corkey’s Grocery Store. There was an old timer sitting on the porch wittling wooden birds with a pocket knife. I was enthralled with this scene as I approached. A budding photographer, I was a bit timid shooting people, especially if I didn’t know them. I wanted a picture and asked for his permission first. He said okay and I took three or four shots.


It didn’t occur to me at the time that this encounter would never happen again. I have always cherished this photo of him. Wilbur Gaskill passed away two years later.

June 23, 2016

Selby Jr.

Looking back, some of my most endearing photographs were portrait shots of locals. If I had it to do all over again, I would concentrate on environmental portraiture more than I did. I guess it’s fortunate that I captured anything at all. Life is full of regrets. Most of the time we have only one chance at something, then the opportunity is gone forever.

One of my favorite portraits was taken in 1980 as I accompanied my fishing friends setting up a pound net. It’s a labor intensive process, cutting the stakes from a forest, transporting them out to the Pamlico Sound and jetting them firmly into the bottom. The wooden stakes are the framework to support the net system. The pound net is an old, yet efficient method of catching fish. Fish follow a line of net that leads into a rectangular pound where they are trapped alive, until they are bailed out by the fishermen.selby jr

Selby Gaskins Jr. was a young man then and willing to pitch in to help. Mischievous at times, he always seemed to have a good time and not cause much trouble to anyone. In this shot he was taking a break after applying his weight to force the pole down as it was pumped into the bottom. He was obviously enjoying himself as I took some pictures. For me this photograph typifies the carefree lifestyle when I moved here, no shoes, no shirt, no problem.

Later in life Selby was stricken with MS, and over the years has slowly lost much of his physical capabilities. It’s been heartbreaking to see this happen to a friend. He’s spent years restricted to a motorized wheelchair, yet used it to get to the post office or go to a friend’s house. The community has come together to help in a number of fundraising events. Much to his appreciation, some of us have brought him fish and oysters. I’ve always been amazed at his courage living with this relentless, debilitating disease. His life is a tough one.