Storm could wash away recent beach work

Posted August 26, 2011 12:44 a.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2011 1:10 a.m. EDT

— In Kill Devil Hills, the rolling dunes are what draw tourists, and their dollars, to the Outer Banks. The annual influx of visitors is the economic engine that keeps coastal towns viable.

As Hurricane Irene bears down on North Carolina, residents of the Outer Banks are calculating the cost not only of the possible damage to come, but a recent investment as well.

Nags Head recently completed a $30 million beach renourishment program and could see some of that work washed away if Irene hits with the expected Category 2 strength.

"We're probably going to experience erosion with this hurricane," Dare County Commissioner Warren Judge said. But he said any erosion would have been a bigger threat without the recent renourishment. He called the investment a protection for property owners.

On a mostly empty beach, Jon Jester walked with his son Thursday, enjoying a final day on the beach before they return to Chapel Hill.

"When you renourish, there's always the chance that it's not going to be here if you get a good storm," he acknowleged. "The timing is not the best.

"I think renourishment is about as close as you can come to try to preserve the beach," he said.

Local leaders are constantly spending to rebuild what Mother Nature takes away on the Outer Banks. The return on their investment is the thousands of tourists who will return again for the soft sand.