Hurricanes

NC 12 reopens to drivers in Hatteras, Ocracoke

Posted September 21, 2020 2:45 p.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2020 5:30 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina Highway 12 in the Outer Banks reopened Thursday after overwash kept the road closed for days.

Two sections, from the Marc Basnight Bridge to Rodanthe on Hatteras and from the National Park Service Pony Pens to the Ferry Terminal on Ocracoke, had been closed since Sunday night when Hurricane Teddy brought crashing waves and strong winds to the Outer Banks.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation called it "a triple whammy" of seasonal high tides, strong northeast winds and long-form waves created by Hurricane Teddy that sent the surf surging across the road.

Both segments reopened to drivers at noon on Thursday.

Photos taken Tuesday showed the road covered with sand to the point that it was unrecognizable. Photographer Donny Bowers spent the day driving around to capture the conditions. He said the surf was as rough as any to hit the islands and that many vehicles were stranded, flooded and totaled.

"There are tons of cars that have been totaled," he said. "People were trying to leave and then got stuck, or people who left them under their houses on the oceanfront, several of them were lost there."

"I think it's very hard for people to get their head around the fact that this wasn't a direct hit, but it was a big storm," said Jan Dawson, manager of the Hatteras Motel. "It takes days for those swells to start rolling in."

At the Hatteras Motel, Dawson said most guests cleared out late last week when Teddy was in the forecast. At high tide on Monday, Dawson saw seawater and sand overtake her parking lot, burying N.C. 12.

Flooding in Avon on Sept. 20

The water completely covered what should be beach – instead, Dawson saw a lot of froth, pounding on the motel pilings.

"It's unbelievable looking at the ocean. It's hard from the video to really get a sense of scale of the waves. They're big," she said. "They're about as big as I've seen from any hurricane."

The Diamond Shoals Buoy, about 17 miles off Cape Hatteras, recorded a wave nearly 18 feet high around 1:40 a.m. Monday.

On Monday, only three rooms were occupied at Hatteras Motel, but Dawson was expecting a full house again by Friday. The few clouds in the forecast won't dim the Outer Banks outlook, and temperatures in the upper 70s are sure to be a draw.

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