Outer Banks' beauty beckons, but traffic troubles tarry travelers

Posted November 21, 2012 6:23 p.m. EST
Updated November 21, 2012 9:02 p.m. EST

— Traffic was bumper to bumper this week as travelers tried to get to the Outer Banks for the Thanksgiving holiday. Part of the struggle was due to issues with N.C. Highway 12, which was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy last month.

Theresa Kiwok and Mark Bierman from Richmond, Va., were among those who found themselves in a traffic jam while waiting for the ferry at Stumpy Point.

“(We were) hoping for a nice straight trip down (Highway) 12 to hit Avon and stay and have an enjoyable week,” Kiwok said.

These days, the trip down Highway 12 south of the Oregon Inlet is blocked by troopers and flashing lights. Patti and Jack Lewis, who are from Richmond, Va., and own a home in Avon, waited it out in a parking lot.

“We can’t get in. It’s flooded, the overwash,” Patti Lewis said.

Winds offshore, extra high tides and a stretch of Sandy-crumpled pavement has made Highway 12 problematic. Only four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed to make the trek, as long as tidal conditions allow. This week, overwash has shut down the road for six hours every day.

“I just looked at pictures of the overwash, and it’s probably questionable whether I’ll get there or not,” said Cliff Baker.

Many choose the ferry route from Stumpy Point to Rodanthe, which opened up post-Sandy. Every two hours, it takes about 35 cars at a time, but there is a priority list.

Utility trucks, fuel trucks and vendors get first dibs on the ferry, followed by Hatteras Island residents. Everybody else has a long, long wait.