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Beach Residents Grow 'Tired' of Bonnie's Effects

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EMERALD ISLE — Between pieces of piers and sand-covered roads, hurricane clean-up on the coast will take a while.

Tires, thousands of them, line a seven to 10 mile stretch of beach from Pine Knoll Shores to Emerald Isle courtesy of Hurricane Bonnie.

"They're gonna start smelling real quick, cause all the sea creatures are on them and the grass and the plants," said Pine Knoll Shores resident Cookie Graham.

The tires came from a man-made reef three miles offshore, that, when it was built, contained 100,000 old tires.

The cables that held the tires together have disintegrated over time. Hurricane Bonnie's strong surf washed them ashore. The state stopped using tires for artificial reefs in the '80s.

"Back in the '70s it sounded like it was a really good idea. They thought that the sand would stabilize the tires. But hindsight really helps us out a lot, and it didn't work out so well," explained Nancy Fish, the N.C. Marine Fisheries spokeswoman.

The state says it will clean up this mess over the next two days. So far, it has removed a thousand of the 5,000 tires littering the beach.

But picking up these tires is no easy task, because the ocean has already washed all the sand into them, and they're very heavy.

Clearing up this colony of tires can't come soon enough for local restaurants and motels, that depend on clean beaches to attract a lot of traffic during the Labor Day weekend.

"It's not the time of year you want that kinda thing happening to your beach. Course we didn't want the hurricane either but it came," explained restaurant owner Steward Picket.

If the tires aren't cleaned up, it could really bury some beachside business.

Friday, the state will bring in nearly 170 people, mostly inmates, to pick up the rest of the tire.

This isn't the first time tires have washed ashore in North Carolina. The state estimates over the years the tire clean-ups have cost almost a quarter of a million dollars. Virginia and New Jersey also use tires as man-made reefs.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Joe Frieda, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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