This story was compiled from reports published in the Island Free Press and the Outer Banks Voice over the last several days. We thank them for their work in keeping us informed and for allowing us to reprint their stories.
NAGS HEAD — Sound-side storm surge, expected to be as high as six feet along the Outer Banks, was not as serious as forecast Monday night, when winds from Hurricane Sandy shifted and threatened the backsides of the barrier islands.
“We fared well with the sound-side flooding,” Dorothy Killingsworth, Dare County spokeswoman, told the Outer Banks Voice, yesterday.
High tide yesterday, however, brought more ocean overwash, especially in Kitty Hawk, which appears to have lost a section of N.C. 12. Traffic was still being rerouted on U.S. 158 near milepost 4, where overwash and flooded ditches have left the highway impassable.
“Hopefully after this one, it’ll start to subside some,” Killingsworth said.
Neighborhoods between the highways — U.S. 158 and N.C. 12 — were flooded throughout Kitty Hawk and northern Kill Devil Hills. Some flooding was also reported in Nags Head.
When winds die down to 30 mph or less, Killingsworth said, the state Department of Transportation will test the emergency ferry channel between Rodanthe and Stumpy Point.
Sandy has isolated Hatteras Island. Regular ferry service has been suspended, though emergency service from Stumpy Point will start today. High surf washed out at least two sections of N.C. 12 south of Oregon Inlet. DOT cleared the road between Hatteras and Rodanthe late yesterday. A severed fiber optic cable interrupted cell and Internet service, which resumed last night.
The storm took out a large section of the Avalon Pier and reportedly at least one house on Hatteras Island.
Dare County Emergency Management planned to confer with town fire chiefs yesterday for a more detailed assessment, Killingworth said.
Along the Outer Banks, winds shifted to the southwest yesterday and were generally gusting at about 30 mph.
Killingworth said that sound-side flooding has caused no serious damage or road closings.
Neither did the storm do any serious damage to the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge across Oregon Inlet. Closed as a precaution during Hurricane Sandy, the bridge has suffered no apparent damage to its structure, at least the part that is visible above water.
“The visual inspection was fine,” Jeff Odom, state Department of Transportation bridge inspection supervisor, told the Island Free Press after inspecting the Oregon Inlet bridge Monday afternoon.
A piece of aluminum fabric had come off a portion of the concrete rail, he said, but that is only a cosmetic concern.
Odom said that divers will use sonar to look for any scouring at the pilings underneath the bridge as well as other potential structural issues as soon as the weather allows.
But he said that type of inspection is nothing unusual. In fact, he said it is routine to check for scour — sand around piles scooped out by currents — under the Bonner Bridge after any significant storm because of its location in treacherous Oregon Inlet.
“That’s normal for that bridge,” Odom said. “It really hasn’t done anything abnormal at all.”
Piled-up sand on the road on the south end of the bridge, he said, prevented him from driving further south on N.C. 12 to inspect the temporary truss bridge over the new inlet in Pea Island that was opened up last August during Hurricane Irene.
A DOT road crew on Sunday had reported seeing scouring around the south end of the bridge, he said, but the extent of it could not be determined.
Odom said the truss bridge’s structure is not the concern — it’s built on concrete pilings – as much as the risk of it washing away if it is undermined.
As soon as a bulldozer can be driven over Bonner Bridge, Odom said, the sand will be cleared off the road so he can get to the temporary bridge to inspect it.
In a press release issued on Sunday, DOT announced that the Bonner Bridge was closed that evening after DOT inspectors determined that the bridge was “unsafe for traffic at this time.”
But Odom said there was no specific problem that prompted the closure, other than the reality of the storm’s destructive potential and the inlet’s powerful currents.
“We want to make sure that everything is alright before we let anybody cross,” he said.
High winds and water buffeted Hatteras Island through Monday. The rains stopped by late morning and temperatures dropped as Sandy tracked around the edge of the Outer Banks.
Flooding from both sides of the island was the biggest issue. The sound and ocean ran together between Frisco and Hatteras and also Rodanthe. Onlookers stood on the dunes Monday in awe of the huge waves and magnificent spray, which could be seen from far away.
The winds gradually shifted Monday afternoon more to the west and sound-side flooding became the main concern.
Anne Bowers, a reporter with the Island Free Press, caught a ride Monday with investigators from the Dare County Sheriff’s Department Monday in their behemoth 5-ton truck with six-wheel drive.
Bowers reported Monday that the ocean was flowing freely through the Buxton motels at high tide. N.C.12, the main road on the island, was heavily covered in sand, which made travel difficult even for the big truck. North of Buxton, travel was easy until the Haul-over area, or the Canadian Hole, which was picturesque with the sound waters throwing up huge sprays when it slammed into the bulkhead.
From there, N.C. 12 was covered over by sound water that was deeper in the south end of Avon. Cars were parked wherever there was high ground — Ace Hardware, the movie theatre, Avon Post Office and Spa Koru.
The old village in Avon had significantly more water with most streets covered in at least knee-high water. Several vehicles sat in engine-high water and several lower houses looked like they were on the brink of flooding.
The officers continued their patrol throughout Avon before heading back to Buxton. High water and sand made travel nearly impossible north of the Top Dog Café in Waves.
During the drive, the investigators answered distress calls from visitors asking for help, frightened by the rising waters. They told most callers to remain calm and that flooding was expected during storms. In Buxton, visitors called to report that the oceanfront house they were in felt like it was coming apart. Six people were removed from the house, which had suffered severe damage.
After the ride with the Sheriff’s Department, Bowers walked along the Buxton oceanfront. Streets off Old Lighthouse road were thigh deep with water, she reported Monday. Several cottages seemed to have sustained significant damage. One had water pouring out of it and another was missing its steps. Several had missing shingles and siding while another was missing its front deck.
The pool area at the Lighthouse View Motel was ripped apart, Bowers noted, and chunks of concrete were broken up and strewn about. The little building that stood next to the pool had been washed towards the motel building. And there was the pool itself which had sustained a lot of damage.
Before leaving the Buxton oceanfront, Bowers saw a sad looking pelican sitting on a dune. Like many water birds during a long storm like Sandy, pelicans can’t forage and this one looked worn and exhausted. He was easy to catch and spent the remainder of Sandy resting comfortably in Bowers’ backyard with her pet ducks. He seemed happy. “When he is ready, he will fly away,” Bowers wrote.
The pier in Avon was still standing but the end is pretty much gone, the Avon Fishing Pier posted on its Facebook page. “Going to have a lot of work to do…going to post pictures as soon as possible…the end of the pier will no longer open.”
Ocracoke was coming back to life yesterday. Several owners were getting their businesses open as flood waters receded, but some areas of standing water remained, which is typical after a storm.
Ferries to Swan Quarter and Cedar Island will run on the normal winter schedule for all starting today, but the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry is suspended until N.C. 12 on both Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands is cleared, said Justin Gibbs, Hyde County Emergency Management director.
Monday’s abbreviated ferry runs to Cedar Island and Swan Quarter were for Ocracoke residents, essential personnel and infrastructure workers only.
The north end of Ocracoke above the Pony Pen has sand on the road for about a 400-yard stretch from ocean overwash, he said, and sand-moving equipment was on its way to Ocracoke on the 4 p.m. ferry Tuesday.
“I expect one lane to be cleared by lunchtime Wednesday,” Gibbs told the Island Free Press yesterday. Until the lane is open, the road will be barricaded, he said.
Ocracoke residents uniformly felt lucky that monster storm Hurricane Sandy only grazed Ocracoke, and there was no major damage on the island.
“That wasn’t a hurricane,” said Tyke Ely, of the two-day storm. “The wind howls with hurricanes. This was like a really bad nor’easter.”
No large trees are down on the island and debris is at a minimum.
“It’s probably the cleanest I’ve seen it after a hurricane,” Sgt. Jason Daniels of the Hyde County Sheriff’s Department told the Free Press.
The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department did an assessment at 7 a.m. Tuesday and found a few areas where water was still a bit high, but no other damage.
Ed Fuller, Ocracoke district ranger for the National Park Service, said beach access for vehicles would open today at the earliest. The beaches are open for pedestrians.
According to a late afternoon Monday press release from Hyde County, flood waters had receded to 6 to 10 inches throughout the village, down from 18- to 24 inches.
Numerous residents could be seen Monday slogging through the water in rain boots, hip waders and even bare feet, which dismayed Eric Godbey, lead paramedic on Ocracoke.
He said people should be careful of venturing into the water since it could contain contaminants.
Flood waters also pose a danger to residents with private wells, according to a Hyde County press release. Wesley Smith, Hyde County health director, said those with private wells must take steps to disinfect them.
Chip Stevens, who lives on Irvin Garrish Highway across from the harbor, reported that as water receded, “cars were everywhere” as people went about. Six inches pf water had covered the road Sunday.
As for provisions on the island, the Variety Store opened Monday and owner Tommy Hutcherson said he had plenty of stock for those still on the island.
Laura and Sean Death, who manage the Ocracoke Station at the Beachcomber Campground, opened for business and had made fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans for sale.
The Topless Oyster Restaurant, at Old Beach Road, was the only restaurant open Monday night and served a roomful of customers. Other restaurants opened Tuesday.
Ocracoke School was closed Monday, but opened Tuesday afternoon.
The village had been flooded by sound-side storm surge Sunday morning.
“I don’t think anyone was expecting this much water so soon,” Daniels told the Island Free Press.
Amy Howard, the new executive director of the Ocracoke Preservation Society, lives at Lawton Lane and Howard Street. “We’re dry,” she told the Free Press Sunday, although she noted that water was just starting to show creep up historic Howard Street.
“I’ve renamed School Road, ‘School River,’” she said after posting photos of the street on a local blog. You can see her photos and those taken by other islanders by clicking on “daily journal.”
Mazie Smith, the Hyde County manager, was on the island Sunday with Gibbs to set up their Emergency Operations Center at the Ocracoke Community Center. “The mainland is OK, but with the roads and the ferries, this is where I need to be to fight for the citizens and the county,” she said Sunday.
By that evening, Ocracoke Island businesses were all closed.