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DOT Working to Clear Highway 12; Permanent Solution Not So Easy

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RALEIGH — North Carolina Highway 12 between the Bonner Bridge and Cape Hatteras has been dealt a major blow by Dennis. Sections of pavement have been swept out to sea; other parts are flooded, some are buried under sand.

The latest word from theN.C. Department of Transportationis that Highway 12 is clear of sand to Avon. Dare County officials are deciding whether to allow the public on the road.

The coastal stretch of road is often washed over by storms; this time the damage is serious.

Julie Hunkins, a DOT engineer and assistant highway administrator, met with WRAL's Tom Lawrence to view videotape shot from the new Sky5 as it flew over Highway 12.

"We have a considerable length where the pavement has been destroyed and the surf or the beach is now where the road was," points out Hunkins.

"There was the Ash Wednesday storm of 1962 that actually formed an inlet just north of Buxton at the same area that has been over washed and where the road is out now. So that has happened before and the inlet was filled back in using dredges, replacing the sand and then reconstructing the road and the dunes," she says.

From the air, the historic problems of keeping Highway 12 open are obvious.

"You can see the over wash where the water has cut through. That is a chronic problem south of the Bonner Bridge," says Hunkins.

DOT engineers say shifting sands of the Barrier Islands make a permanent solution difficult.

"One of the alternatives that we'd be looking at, perhaps, is the location. A longer term solution is to move the road to the west, either on at grade on the existing grade or even on an elevated structure," says Hunkins.

Hunkins says state and federal agencies already have lots of workers and equipment working on Highway 12. They plan to have the road open all the way to Buxton and through Ocracoke just as soon as they can.

Even that will not be soon enough for those who refused to evacuate those areas and remain stranded.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Mark Copeland, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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