Local News

Hatteras On the Road to Recovery as Highway 12 Reopens

Posted September 8, 1999

— More than a week ago, Hurricane Dennis washed out Highway 12 north of Buxton. Thursday, theDepartment of Transportationreopened the only main road on Hatteras Island.

Anxious drivers, stranded for nearly two weeks, stacked up on both ends of the Buxton breech, a spot where Dennis dumped tons of sand, cutting off the coastal highway and trapping everything in its wake.

The DOT spent $383,000 to build a temporary road that doglegs around the trouble spot. Once the lines were drawn in the sand, the barriers came down, and the first post-Dennis traffic moved along the newest section of Highway 12.

Last weekend, the DOT allowed four-wheel drive vehicles to plow through the sandy section of road. Opening the road to all traffic marks a significant step in recovering from the latest storm to bash the Outer Banks.

So what do you do with a road on a barrier island that keeps getting moved by hurricanes? The DOT says it has not decided yet, and is taking a look at the problem.

The thinnest point of coastal Highway 12 is at the Buxton breech which is only 250 feet from sound to sea. Dare County's chief highway engineer says a bridge, a beach re-nourishment project or a combination of the two might work.

A final decision could be weeks away. Crews are still digging out at wash over spots all along the Outer Banks.

On Pea Island, just south of Oregon Inlet, it is a tight squeeze for two-way traffic as the bulldozers move sand.

Highway 12 is now open all the way. DOT crews and locals are not looking forward to the next time the bulldozers have to go to work.

In 1962, a storm carved an inlet where the new section of highway was just built. The DOT says the long-standing problem for that stretch of the Outer Banks makes finding a permanent solution even harder.

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