Updated at 2 p.m. Tuesday:
Two unoccupied houses crumbled into the surf Tuesday in Rodanthe, as winds and waves continued to rage during a prolonged storm on the Outer Banks that has also caused traffic delays on N.C. 12 and ferry cancellations.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore confirmed that the unoccupied structure at 24265 Ocean Drive collapsed Tuesday afternoon. That followed the collapse earlier in the day of a house at 24235 Ocean Drive in Rodanthe.
“The collapse of the house at 24235 Ocean Drive was hastened by the prolonged storm system that has impacted the Outer Banks since Sunday,” Michael Barber, public affairs officer with Cape Hatteras National Seashore, told Coastal Review.
N.C. 12, which has been closed since Tuesday morning, remained closed from Oregon Inlet to Rodanthe as conditions were expected to worsen during the afternoon’s encroaching high tide, making it unsafe to reopen the road to traffic, North Carolina Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday.
Over the last three days, a stationary low pressure system has brought strong winds and large waves to the Outer Banks, causing N.C. 12 to be covered with sand and deep ocean overwash at the Pea Island Visitor Center and at the S-curves just north of Rodanthe.
“Conditions at other locations on N.C. 12 between Rodanthe and Hatteras Village are passable but difficult, with sand and standing ocean water at several locations,” officials said.
NCDOT crews worked Tuesday morning into the afternoon to clear the roadway and build a protective berm to prevent the road from being undermined.
The forecast calls for slowly improving conditions beginning late Wednesday into Thursday.
Another nearby house at 24183 Ocean Drive collapsed onto seashore property Feb. 9. The debris from this house spread across miles of beach before the homeowner — and volunteers in an organized beach cleanup event — were able to remove much of it. Cleanup efforts for smaller debris related to the Feb. 9 house collapse continue.
The beach along Ocean Drive in Rodanthe has been closed since February to protect the public from hazards associated with the previous collapsed home and because there are additional homes in the area that may collapse.
“Unfortunately, there may be more houses that collapse onto Seashore beaches in the near future,” said David Hallac, superintendent, National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, in a statement. “We proactively reached out to homeowners along Ocean Drive in Rodanthe after the first house collapse and recommended that actions be taken to prevent collapse and impacts to Cape Hatteras National Seashore.”
Barber added that since the winter of this year, seashore officials have been aware of several houses in imminent danger of collapse along Ocean Drive in Rodanthe. The beach adjacent to Ocean Drive has been closed to all access since the previous house collapse in February.
The park service said it was committed to working with the owner of the house that collapsed Tuesday to coordinate the cleanup. Visitors who plan to collect debris should place piles above the high-tide line so it doesn’t get washed back into the ocean.
Visitors should use caution when participating in recreational activities on the beach and in the ocean along Hatteras Island as debris is being spread widely across the seashore.
As forecast Sunday by the National Weather Service, the Outer Banks have been experiencing an extended period of strong winds and high surf, which has led to coastal flooding and ocean overwash north of Cape Hatteras into Wednesday.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation warned earlier this week through its social media to expect travel delays and other complications as a result of the rough weather.
Since Sunday, ferry routes have been suspended or delayed. At about 10 a.m. Tuesday, all Outer Banks routes were suspended along with the Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach route on the Neuse River because of high water levels there, according to Ferry Division officials.
The storm was also affecting N.C. 12, the Outer Banks highway. According to NCDOT’s N.C. 12 social media Tuesday morning, the overnight high tide was the worst one so far for this storm.
“NC12 remains CLOSED between Oregon Inlet and Rodanthe, as deep sand and water are covering large sections of the roadway. In Buxton and Hatteras, there is deep water and sand on the roadway. While passable, it is not something you should drive through unless absolutely necessary,” the post reads. “If you live on Hatteras Island, today is a day to stay off the roads and wait for the weather to calm down and for our crews to do their work.”
NCDOT crews will be clearing the road as soon as conditions allow, and officials hope to get the road reopened Tuesday at some point. “But again, the next high tide, at around 3:30 this afternoon, could be as bad as this morning’s.”
Leading up to Tuesday’s closure, N.C. 12 experienced some minor overwash at Pea Island, Mirlo Beach and Buxton Monday morning but the highway remained open at that time. Around 1 p.m. Monday, the highway was passable though there was some blown sand on the roadway and some overwash.