Category Archives: beach

Christmas 2020

For years, I went to my parents’ house for Christmas, although sometimes I’d stay at home here on the island. Christmas Day on Hatteras is a time of indescribable peace, quiet and hardly any traffic. There’s no feeling like it any other day of the year. Most transplants leave and travel to be with families elsewhere. The beaches are nearly empty and it would seem those still here have the entire place to themselves.

Combing the beaches on Christmas Day I’ve found a traditional symbol of the time, what I’d call makeshift Christmas trees. Whenever I see them they touch my heart and, I photograph them.

Christmas Day of 2018 this undecorated tree stood out on an empty beach.

On Christmas Day of 2019, I was happy to see this naturally decorated one. They’re always anonymous and delightful to see.

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving Past

Thanksgiving spawns memories of togetherness. A fond recollection for me took place 5 years ago. Members of my family rented a vacation house in Avon, and a Thanksgiving meal was planned around 6 o’clock. What made this one so special is that my 91 year old mother was there.

As Denise and I headed south to join them, the sun was beginning to set. We were just approaching beach access Ramp 25 when I noticed a tinge of color in the clouds, so I pulled over and watched one of the best rainbow displays I had ever seen. Normally gone in a few minutes, this one stayed bright and brilliant for nearly twenty minutes.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was to be the last Thanksgiving that I shared with my mother…. and it was a good one.

 

Over and Over

The storm that recently shut down highway 12 reminded me of the fragility of the place where I’ve lived most my life. The road was closed about 4 days until highway crews could clear  accummulated sand, allowing traffic to once again, exit or enter the island. Many do this cautiously, maneuvering through corrosive sea water. I’ve been watching and photographing this for years, over and over again.

When I first settled on Hatteras Island in the early 70’s, it seemed idyllic. I loved combing the beaches and riding the waves. Gradually I began noticing the dynamic nature of a barrier island. I saw how wind and water combine to move sand, sometimes lots of it.

The blizzard of March 1980 brought a hundred mile an hour northeaster exploding with a foot of snow. My Rodanthe house at the time, was surrounded by sea water barreling through the dunes and raging down highway 12. Even to this day, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Later I was to experience more storms significantly impacting the island. A good example is just north of Rodanthe where the main road takes a few bends. That’s where the pavement has been moved a number of times due to encroaching seas. A vegetated dune line helped protect the area, but not for long.

In 1984 Hurricane Josephine completely removed the dune line at the S-Turn. My surfing buddy Robin Gerald and I were in awe of nature’s power.

The road there began closing more and more often.

One vehicle after another became trapped in slurries of sand and sea water.

North Carolina Department of Transportation has tried in vain to keep traveling corridors open even in the harshest conditions.

A storm in March of 1989 created a breach at the north end of Buxton as volunteers worked desperately to force the ocean back with sand bags. It didn’t work well for long.

The Halloween Storm of 1991 was another hallmark. This lot in Rodanthe was as oceanfront as property can get. Any takers?

Spring of 1992 brought more woes for highway 12 on Pea Island and sandbagging was once again implemented as a short term solution.

1999 was a banner year for destructive storms as Hurricane Dennis spun offshore for several days, resulting in a number of demolished homes on the oceanfront. Over the years, I’ve seen dozens of them succumb to the sea.

At the same time, a long stretch of road north of Buxton was completely taken out, pavement and all.

Dennis racked up additional casualties at the S-Turn.

Since that time, I’ve seen average water levels in the Pamlico Sound behind my home increase from knee deep then, to waist deep today. That doesn’t bode well for attempts at controlling future onslaughts to the island.

Today the Rodanthe skyline consists of huge cranes building a multimillion dollar remedy to a problem that never seems to end.

Man is not master of this domain, but is more like a slave to it.

 

Dorian

It’s hard to describe the feeling of having a hurricane, one of the most powerful forces in nature, spinning your way. Being affected numerous times, I can say that it doesn’t get any easier, and my sense of time becomes warped.  It’s nerve wracking, physically exhausting and roulette all rolled into one. Preparation is essential, and I often wonder how the old timers did it before advanced meteorological science. With Dorian we had a few days notice to secure property, evacuate or hunker down.

The beach that would normally be enjoyed by throngs of visitors was nearly empty after the evacuation order.

You’d be hard pressed to find a more idyllic tropical shore, yet two days later, Dorian would be passing through.

After I took my gallery sign down, the streets became deserted and rendered a surreal feeling.

Those choosing to ride it out use every spot of high ground in an effort to save their vehicles. Elevated parking spaces are limited and highly sought.

Six years ago we adopted two stray cats, and they had already been through three hurricanes. Now this one. We set them up in my gallery where a number of other items had to be stowed.

I made one last pass around town contemplating the event that was bearing down on us.

Early Friday morning, Dorian made landfall on Hatteras and before the power went out I made a screen shot of the eye over Cape Point. My barometer, some twenty miles north of the eye wall, dipped to 966 millibars. It was a relief for us, but not for those on Ocracoke and the southern villages of Hatteras Island.

After Dorian hit the point and sped offshore, the wind shifted from the northwest and blew the hardest with gusts of about 85 miles an hour. The tide rose from Pamlico Sound and resulted in a foot or two of seawater on the main road.

My house withstood another onslaught and I could hardly wait to remove the plywood from the windows.

As the water subsided, I realized we had escaped the wrath of Dorian, but those on Ocracoke and lower Hatteras Island will be picking up the pieces for quite a while.

Beach Walker

Charley was a minimal hurricane that went up the Pamlico Sound in August of 1986. Hatteras Island was evacuated and the sound tide rose to a moderately high level. It wasn’t devastating at all. But like many storms it gave me an opportunity to shoot a series of photographs, hoping to get at least one that might be memorable for me.

As Charley passed, I hit the Rodanthe oceanfront to encounter a strolling beachcomber. He didn’t notice me and I waited for a good set of waves to record a moment in passing.