Category Archives: Sea

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.

 

Buoys

Exploring the coast one may notice some curious artifacts. Some are natural and others are manmade. People collect shells, driftwood or beach glass. They’re all brought in by the sea. Some of my favorite collectables are the buoys from fishing nets and crab pots. They’re usually derelict from lost fishing gear and can be found at any time, but especially after storms.

I like displaying them from trees in my yard.

Some hang from an old trawl net that I found years ago.

Some of them are very special to me, like this one that belonged to Mac Midgett.

I D Midgett is my next door neighbor and has fished all his life.

Another buoy belonged to my good friend and neighbor Eric Anglin. He still brings me fish.

Recently this gem was given to me by Steve Ryan. It was Les Hooper’s buoy. Les and Steve were neighbors. Les is gone now, but his spirit remains.

I also have a buoy from Rudy Gray of Waves. He no longer fishes commercially, but is still an accomplished angler.

A few months ago I got a call from Roger Wooleyhan who fishes commercially in Delaware. His fishing buddy, Layton Moore has another fishing friend who came across this buoy in his net near Ocean City, Maryland. It’s a crab pot buoy that belonged to my friend Asa Gray also of Waves. Asa passed away about 2 years ago, and he was Rudy’s brother.

I can only imagine how this arrived so far away. It’s reminiscent of a message in a bottle. It must have flowed from Pamlico Sound into the Atlantic, up the coast and through Ocean City Inlet and on to Isle of Wight Bay. Maybe it hitched a ride snagged to a rudder. At any rate, that’s some journey!

 

Bridging the Gap

No matter how you look at it, the new bridge over Oregon Inlet is an engineering marvel. For the past few years, driving over the old Bonner Bridge, we witnessed the construction progress, going together like a humongous tinker toy.

Last Saturday, NCDOT opened the new thoroughfare just for pedestrian and bike traffic. It happened to coincide with 40° weather and a northeaster, making it somewhat more challenging.

The Bonner Bridge is well past it’s life span, so it’s out with the old, in with the new.

At 10:15 we began our walk on the north side, heading south, downwind. Dozens of folks had already begun the 2.8 mile trek.

With a 30 mile an hour breeze at their backs, bikers hardly even needed to peddle.

Everyone was bundled up.

Equipment was still in place.

Following a curve, the new road rises to the peak about 90 feet above the water.

The high point of the old Bonner Bridge is about 70 feet.

Hitting the uphill grade, I felt the wind intensify as if the bridge created a Venturi effect.

Facing into the wind from the rise, I saw more approaching troops braving the elements.

On top the wind seemed to accelerate even more, as tide boiled through the inlet.

Photo ops were everywhere and everyone became photographers.

This crew got the shot and then in a gust…

… almost got blown away.

Three quarters into the walk, the south end of the new bridge converges back toward the old bridge landing.

Looking back I could see hundreds of people still underway.

A cyclist coasted to the end of his downhill run.

Welcome to Hatteras Island, home of Highway 12, probably the most expensive road to maintain in the entire state.

 

 

 

 

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!