Beach highway, ferries open for Labor Day weekend
A brush from Hurricane Earl hasn't kept life on the Outer Banks from returning to normal in time for Labor Day weekend. N.C. Highway 12 was completely re-opened Saturday for the first time in three days, and the mandatory evacuation has been lifted from Ocracoke Island.Posted — Updated
State Department of Transportation crews started work before dawn Saturday to clear the last of sand covering N.C. Highway 12, the only road that connects Hatteras Island to the outside world.
Hours later, hundreds of vehicles were packed onto the Bonner Bridge, crossing south over the Oregon Inlet onto Hatteras.
"I knew we were going to get down here," said Benjamin Voyles, 27, of Charlotte, who had spent Friday night at a Nags Head hotel hoping to get to Buxton for a fishing trip. "It was just a matter of time."
The mandatory evacuation for Ocracoke Island was also lifted Saturday morning, as ferries resumed their normal service to the island that is accessible only by sea and air.
The rest of the beaches – and the bridges connecting them to the mainland – along North Carolina's coast were reopened Friday.
The closure of N.C. 12 had cut Hatteras Island and its seven villages off from the mainland since Thursday. Some homes were flooded, but no injuries or major damage were reported.
Officials cautioned to drivers to look out for any remaining standing water or sand on Outer Banks roads.
Drivers eager to return to Hatteras formed an impromptu campground along N.C. 12 overnight Friday.
Some residents were anxious to find out what had happened to their homes.
"It's really frustrating because some of us live out there," resident Trina Reed said. "That's our home. That's where our belongings are. That's where everything is."
Tourists Tom and Desirei Millea, who were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary, said they were trying to make the best of a frustrating situation.
"It's easy. You're at the beach. You got to take it as it comes," Millea said.
Vacationer Celine Sylvan said she was applying the beach philosophy to the unexpected camping outing.
"When you're resourceful and positive, life is a breeze," Sylvan said.
For those who do make it out to the beaches, it will be a pleasant Labor Day weekend – and sunny throughout.
A cold front slipped through the state Friday night, and highs in the low 80s will reign along the coast throughout the holiday weekend.
Wayne Hammond, a 47-year-old mechanic from Baltimore, noted a benefit to the delay to his family's vacation.
"There's always better weather after a hurricane," Hammond said.