Gone, but certainly not forgotten, Hurricane Sandy left its mark on the Outer Banks. Fortunately, nothing like our northern neighbors are experiencing, but there is still ongoing cleanup. NC 12 may be one of the most exposed coastal highways anywhere and major storm events remind us of that fact.
Here’s a quick rundown of where we stand:
On Hatteras Island, the area just north of Rodanthe–the S curves–is a perpetual trouble spot, often becoming impassable during an abnormally high tide. The road was replaced after the devastation of Irene, and once again, NCDOT is rebuilding the destroyed roadbed.
On the northern Outer Banks, 200 yards of the Beach Road (NC 12) in Kitty Hawk was destroyed by Sandy. It affected the stretch of beach just north of the Black Pelican Restaurant that may be the most exposed shoreline north of Oregon Inlet. According to folks at the Field Research Facility in Duck, this area of beach sits on top of an ancient river bed and, due to the underwater geography, the force of the waves gets funneled onto this shoreline.
Southern Shores and north seemed to fare better, although there was significant beach retreat in northern Duck, especially in the area around Carolina Dunes.
One of the most interesting bits of information coming from the Outer Bank’s brush with Hurricane Sandy is whether beach nourishment performs as promoted . . . and the initial assessment is positive. Last fall, the Town of Nags Head completed the largest nourishment project in the United States paid entirely from municipal funds. Compared to pre-nourishment weather events, the town faired remarkably well. Town officials indicated they lost a street sign and county health inspectors found no compromised septic systems. For readers who don’t live here–after coastal flooding, a damaged septic system is one of the biggest problems experienced. The rules are simple: no septic system, no occupancy.
Nags Head’s current experience with beach nourishment is definitely food for thought. The Town of Duck recently completed a feasibility study on beach nourishment and the town council is currently considering whether the cost, which is considerable, is worth the benefits.
The holiday seasons remain popular with guests, who arrived steadily for the Thanksgiving holiday and vacation homes continue to book for annual Christmas gatherings. Storm events come and go, but those vacationers who love the Outer Banks are as steadfast as the tides.