By Peter Vankevich
Islanders now have a heads-up when the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry is not running.
North Carolina Department of Transportation implemented a “Dynamic Message Sign” last week at the north end of the village heading to the ferry terminal.
It didn’t take long for it to be put to work as Ocracoke has been blanketed with heavy fog today (Thursday) and yesterday causing ferry suspensions at both end of the island.
“Although putting a sign like this on Ocracoke was our idea, the sign itself is an NCDOT sign, controlled by the folks at Division One,” the NCDOT Ferry Division’s communications officer Timothy Hass said today. “When we want something displayed, we contact an electronics technician at a DOT office in New Bern. He can program messages to stay up continuously, or to start and stop at prearranged times.”
Being a DOT sign, it will also be used primarily for ferry and road-related issues. But according to Jennifer Garifo Heiss, the Division One communications officer, it will also be utilized during emergencies (Hurricanes, Nor’easters and other major weather or road construction events to provide updates and evacuation information). All coordination and posting of messages will come through NCDOT.
She said the decision to have such a sign posted on the island was due to the distance from the village of Ocracoke to the ferry terminal. It was installed to aid travelers and residents of Ocracoke by informing them of conditions prior to leaving the Village.
Islanders Ronnie Ciccone and Sidra Seitz were highly positive about this addition.
Both have in the past driven the 13 miles to the ferry terminal only to wait out the fog or decide to return to the village. .
“It’s an ugly sign, but a practical one,” islander Philip Howard conceded.
For those wondering about the horns that were blowing in the village yesterday and today (Thursday), they were the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries arriving and departing in the fog.
Carrie Anne Styron, who works in the Ocracoke Ferry Division office, checked with Ferry Captain Donald Austin who said that there is a Coast Guard regulation that boats must provide a prolonged blast every two minutes when moving in foggy conditions as was the case the last two days.
AccuWeather is calling for temperatures in the 30s tomorrow (Friday), climbing to 44 degrees on Saturday and into the 50s Sunday and Monday.