Irene may have torn third hole in NC 12

Posted August 29, 2011

— State transportation engineers were studying N.C. Highway 12 on Monday to determine whether Hurricane Irene's storm surge breached the vital link along the Outer Banks in a third area, Gov. Beverly Perdue said.

Damage to N.C. 12 cut off land access to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, stranding at least 2,500 people and bringing a sudden end to the summer tourist season upon which the region's economy depends heavily.

Perdue vowed to make the road passable as soon as possible.

"There are going to be those from across the country saying, 'Why are (you) investing in that road again?'" she said. "Until we can find a better way to move on and off (the islands), they are North Carolina citizens, they pay taxes and they have got to have a highway, road or bridge to travel on the same as the rest of us."

Perdue is seeking federal disaster recovery money for Dare and six other North Carolina counties hit by Irene: Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell.

The two confirmed breaches – just north of Rodanthe and in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge – are bigger than those caused by previous hurricanes, she said, and the continued pounding of the surf is making them larger.

Hatteras Island Soundside surge catches Hatteras off-guard

Hurricane Isabel tore a breach through Hatteras Island, near Frisco, in 2003. It took the state two months to fill the new inlet and repair the highway then.

Authorities weren't allowing anyone onto the islands or the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Monday, and there was no word on when residents and visitors might be allowed to return.

A checkpoint has been set up between Nags Head and Oregon Inlet to stop everyone but emergency personnel from traveling to Hatteras Island.

A WRAL News crew traveled to the island by boat Monday and found the North Beach Campground in Rodanthe in ruins. Mobile homes and recreational vehicles were tossed into the water and against one another, and the bath house was toppled from its foundation.

"We're pretty much done as far as the campground. Hopefully, we'll be able to salvage ... some of our year-round sites," said Joey O'Neal, whose family has owned the property for 50 years.

The campground damage came from sound-side flooding a quarter-mile away, O'Neal said.

"(Water) was flowing through here just like a river flows, if not harder than that," Justin O'Neal said. "There was so much tide built up everywhere."

Across the street, the O'Neal family home also was knocked off its foundation by the surging water.

Hatteras torn apart by Irene's surge Hatteras torn apart by Irene's surge

"I really don't honestly think the reality has begun to sink in," Stephanie O'Neal said. "It's so overwhelming (to determine) where to start or what to do."

Up the road, the Serendipity House, made famous in the movie "Nights in Rodanthe," escaped Irene's wrath unharmed.

"We had some wind-driven rain damage on the fourth floor, you know, naturally, but other than that, we fared fine," said owner Debbie Huss. "We had a generator and we got to watch TV during it. Our satellite did not go out."

Ferries will be the islands' only link to the mainland until repairs to N.C. 12 are complete. Emergency ferry service started Monday between Stumpy Point on the mainland to Rodanthe to bring in power crews, National Guard members, fuel and generators and provide some stranded residents with a way off the island.

N.C.12 was open between Rodanthe and Hatteras Village, officials said, but limited cell phone service hampered recovery efforts.

Crews with Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative were working to restore power to the island, but there was no word when power would be back on. Two emergency generators were expected to arrive on the island Tuesday to provide temporary power to residents stranded on the island, officials said.

Locations where N.C. 12 washed out:

View NC Highway 12 damage in a larger map


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  • Bendal1 Aug 31, 2011

    First off, there is a need for a road on the Outer Banks. Even if it is nothing more than a packed gravel road on a sand foundation, the need is there.

    Second, putting a toll on NC 12 itself isn't an option. It is the access for a National Seashore; that means the Feds would need to approve, and they aren't going to do that. A toll on NC 12 also is discriminatory to the residents of Pea and Hatteras Islands, who would be forced to pay a toll any time they left their homes.

    A better option is to rebuild NC 12 and perhaps elevate it a few more feet, with reinforcement underneath the pavement. A storm may wash the pavement away but that can easily be replaced as long as the foundation underneath it remains.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Aug 31, 2011

    You're still trying to "outdo mother nature" by building a bridge.

    This is an island...made of sand.

    If you choose to invest there, know that (just like in the stock market) you could lose everything AND it's not the government's job to bail you out. Investment = Risk.

    As for residents, I'm reminded of the old Sam Kinison skit where he tells the starving people in the world "You live in a DESERT! There's no food there!" live on SAND! It's going to move, flood and...DISAPPEAR! That's right. It could just all wash away.

    Yes, I know you have a hard time believing that.... (sigh)

  • hedgy_one Aug 30, 2011

    Rather than fill in the inlet (so that it can be washed out again), why not just build a small bridge? Makes more sense to me. We are NOT going to outdo "mother nature."

  • The Fox Aug 30, 2011

    stop it e2brtus. I about coughed up a lung from laughing.

    Anyway the problem is that the historic inlets were filled in. There are also paleochannels up and down the coast. These weak links or 'hot zones' in NCDOT lingo will always breach in high surf.

  • e2brtus Aug 30, 2011

    contd. sure..."we have insurance" we WILL rebuild this hi way! i mean, folks don't come here and pay $200,000.00 for an ocean front lot and then build 6000 square foot houses ( they are not homes...but trophys ) in sand and daggonne it, Bev had better re build my....errr our road! i need to work on my tan!" go ahead call me jealous,callous or just plain ignorant. then when you leave starbuck, head down to the local library and spend some time in the "archives" room to view old maps of NC's coast line. year after year the ocean encroaches and TAKES precious real estate foot by foot,inch by inch the ocean wins,sad but true;man is once again proven to be the fool.
    i just wonder how many children will forego medical care or school altogether because the states money was used to re-build NC-12 and the palaces that connect to it.and yes, as a matter of fact I DO OWN a home in North Topsail Beach that sustained damage to the tune of $327.460.97 on Sept. 6th 1996. and yes, on 9/12/98 i sold it

  • e2brtus Aug 30, 2011

    one of the earliest sunday school lessons i learned as a child was about the person who built his house on rock,his brother built his house on sand.all was well and everyone was happy. then, that Fall;a storm dumped 10 cubits of rain on their little village for 2 days and nights. finally the stormed moved north and in the day light the brothers discovered that lo and behold the house built on sand had been destroyed and was last seen floating in the sound! BUT! the smart brother from UNC who had the common sense to build his home on a solid rock foundation found that his house still STANDING! oh my praise _________ ( fill in with your God of choice ) his house survived the rains and was left unschathed and the interior dry...except for the washer/dryer combo in the basement as they suffered some minor flooding...but his house was spared! a miracle? not really, just good old fashioned common sense. something, our leaders and decision makers seem to have lost and never regained.

  • btneast Aug 30, 2011

    The Gov is from that area.

    I am pretty sure Bev is from the New Bern area. The folks at the OBX would take offense that you considered New Bern as "part of their area".

  • Capt Mercury Aug 30, 2011

    I'm sure NC-12 will be rebuilt, regardless of the failed logic behind that action. What matters is politics. The Gov is from that area. Lots of people have lots of money down there. (Not everyone of course. Somebody has to do the dirty work down there.) Money = political influence in NC as in most states. Certainly true in Washington DC too. So I bet that both state and federal dollars are being printed right now to rebuild this road that will only wash away again during the next storm.
    BTW, if there ever was a place for a toll road, this is it!

  • josep4567 Aug 30, 2011

    put levies up from maine to miami !

  • more cowbell Aug 30, 2011

    It's a road built on a sand foundation people. The sane was here before we were and will be there when we're gone. Mother Nature is in control of the road, not gov. Bev or any other political party.