Category Archives: storms

Two Storms One Tide

As Florence changed course and battered other portions of North Carolina, many here thought that we’d escaped its power. In the meantime, torrential rain flooded inland rivers that would eventually feed into the sounds along the coast.

For the three weeks after Florence, I noticed a salinity drop and a higher tide level in Pamlico Sound behind my house. In fact it was 2 feet higher than normal, and stayed that way as Hurricane Michael steamed into the gulf coast of Florida.

When Michael’s path steered more to the west with winds of about 50, our prospects were looking better, although I recalled other storms taking a similar course, pushing the sound waters eastward. I expected tide so prepared for some rise. By eight o’clock on the night of the 11th the wind began shifting southwest and picking up. My barometer read 990 millibars and then the water began coming in. It rose until after midnight, and was 3 feet deep in the yard. Then as fast as it came up, it receded by early morning.

My house has another water line notch on it.

By sunup most of the water had drained off, but Route 12 still had issues with standing water.

Driving through it is hazardous to your vehicle’s health.

Driving through the tide is even worse when you navigate on the deeper side of the road at a higher rate of speed. That was a nice new truck!

The stories of stranded and flooded vehicles were numerous. To compound matters there was no evacuation order. The campgrounds were a mess. Flotsam and jetsam were everywhere within the water’s reach.

Cisterns next to my house have waterlines to show the flood depth. Being filled with fresh water, they tend to float as the more dense seawater gets deeper. The tank on the right was only three quarters full and came up a foot off the ground.

By my count, this was the 4th highest tide that I’ve seen here in 45 years. It was 32 inches below Irene, our highest with a ten foot storm surge. Right in between at 16 inches below Irene, there’s Arthur 2014 and the March storm of 93.

I’m always amazed at the resiliency of the salt marsh, particularly after a flood.

A rack line of debris shows forces at work. In six months it will be completely decomposed with tall thriving marsh grasses in its place.

The wetland looks healthier for it and flourishes come drought or high water. This section is composed of mostly black needle rush, sometimes called juncus grass. In adverse conditions it provides great shoreline protection for my property. It’s also a desirable habitat for clapper rails and seaside sparrows.

About the size of a dime, the marsh aster is still beautiful after being inundated with wind, waves and sea water.

Florence

A week ago I sat at the Tiki-Ti bar in Los Angeles watching a bartender making tropical drinks, like Hurricanes.

Today I’m sitting in my house in the fringes of Hurricane Florence. What a difference. Real hurricanes spawn emotions like no other. Preparation is tedious and keeping updated on the storm essential. But at some point one must cross the line of either staying or evacuating. It’s a serious decision to make. Based on all the information I could process on Florence, I decided to stay.

Yesterday was gorgeous with big puffy clouds and building surf.

Today is much different as weather rapidly deteriorates.

Highway 12 has no traffic and almost everyone’s gone.

At noon the eye of Florence was right below Cape Hatteras and moving in on Wilmington.

By the end of the day, strong winds from the east had lowered the Pamlico Sound behind my place by about 4 feet.

Overnight was wet and windy, though not extremely so. Barometric pressure never went below 1008 millibars. The bullet dodged us. Next morning the first place to look is Rodanthe Pier. It always was the go-to spot and still is. I hope this isn’t last legs for our local hangout. It’s a constant maintenance pit.

This swirling environment is also tough on a new Leica lens.

The erosion around the fishing pier has accelerated in the last few years, and it doesn’t resemble anything like it was 30 or 40 years ago.

It appears the pier itself has basically been spared this time.

Meanwhile in North Rodanthe the beach continues its retreat.

The beach in Salvo remains broad and more able to sustain nature’s onslaught.

What’s next, take down the plywood already?

 

It’s a Gift

Early March is known for stormy weather. Notorious  examples of this on the Outer Banks are the Ash Wednesday storm of 1962, the hundred mile an hour blizzard northeaster of 1980, and the 1993 white hurricane that brought substantial flooding.

This year back to back northeasters took yet another bite out of the island. Route 12 was highly compromised in several spots, and weather conditions were generally cold, windy and wet. Rather than documenting it with my camera, I spent much of that time painting the walls inside my studio.

At one point, I peered outside as rainy skies cleared about half an hour before sunset. Anticipating dramatic light, I took the hint to grab my Nikon and head to the beach. I was rewarded with a brilliantly lit sea under a colorful rainbow.

I had a 20mm lens to shoot a turbulent ocean framed by the rainbow.

I couldn’t resist shooting the ends with a 200mm lens.

The telephoto effect brought the seas closer for impact.

As the light dimmed, I caught one last glimpse.

With the perceived negative aspects of coastal storms, there are always some gifts that come with them.

 

 

 

Epilogue Maria

Wednesday morning my barometer was still reading 996 millibars as the center of Maria moved slowly northward offshore over a hundred miles away.

The winds shifted from northeast, north and then northwest. Already high sound tides were getting slightly higher, but not high enough to cause concern. Our neighbors in Hatteras Village and Ocracoke had more storm surge and it flooded some of their streets.

Meanwhile the tumultuous ocean wet the highway through Mirlo Beach.

The artificial dune line north of town was keeping the highway passable.

NCDOT worked frantically to keep the water from washing out the road at the S-Curve…. just barely.

It looks like north Rodanthe survived another one.

Seas were still intense yet I could see it was beginning to show signs of moderating.

The clouds from Maria kept drifting around.

Rodanthe Pier is always a great place to view the excitement.

Eric and I ventured out on the shaky deck as a huge set rolled in and broke right in front of us.

We were astonished to see a couple of teenagers body surfing in the hurricane soup… just craziness.

Having been out on the blowing beach all day, I decided to head home and wash the sand off.

Later I drove to ramp 25 to end my date with Maria. The seas were calming down as the sun set.

Hurricane clouds loomed in the sky.

And I kept shooting the awesome environment around me.

The best hurricanes are the ones that keep their distance.

 

 

 

Closer Call Maria

Thankfully Hurricane Maria is forecast to go by out to sea, east of us. It should be about a hundred miles away early tomorrow morning while weakening to a tropical storm.

Nonetheless it’s a blustery day in the villages, with gigantic seas and northeast winds gusting to 40 and higher.  As Maria passes, winds should clock around due north then northwest. The switching wind is usually dramatic.

At noon the ocean off Rodanthe was already in turmoil.

The main concern on Hatteras Island will be flooding from the Pamlico Sound. I’ll post more as conditions allow.

continued…. At sundown, I went to check the north end of town again. That’s where the action is.

This evening the S-Curve is still passable at low tide.

There were some breaks in the cloud cover with intermittent rain squalls.

It was a chore holding the camera steady in wind gusts.

For maximum sky coverage, I used a 20mm lens.

In the quickly fading light, I made sure to get a vertical shot.

Tonight I’ll have my truck parked on higher ground. Tomorrow will be different.

So far, so good!