By Peter Vankevich
Getting on and off Ocracoke remains a challenge on Monday. Ferries were shut down Friday due to a passing storm that pummeled the Outer Banks with high winds and gusts over 50 mph.
Although the Ocracoke-Hatteras run was opened briefly Saturday evening, by dawn Sunday serious flooding from the shifting winds, caused significant damage to N.C. 12, especially on Hatteras Island closing NC 12 at Bonner Bridge. With the road closure went the ferry service. The Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries have also had intermittent runs.
Road crews worked to clear the roads, but a NCDOT N.C. 12 Facebook message Monday morning said the high tide overwash Sunday night wiped out the progress that the DOT crews made, and the road between the Bonner Bridge and Rodanthe remains closed.
On Ocracoke, N.C. 12 from just beyond the Pony Pens to the north end ferry terminal remains closed.
In many areas on Hatteras, including the tri-villages (Waves, Salvo and Rodanthe) and Avon, a lot of sand covering the roads will need to be removed. Standing water also impedes travel, and today’s 10 a.m. high tide was expected to contribute to damage.
Although the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry service is ready to resume, it is waiting for the road to be reopened, said Chris Bock, Ferry Division District 1 superintendent based in Hatteras.
“We have enough crew staff to run the routes, but we also have employees trying to get on the island,” he said. “Our primary goal right now is working the NCDOT to get equipment on Ocracoke and do whatever we can to help.”
Last week, the Ferry Division had placed temporary limits on total weight and 25 vehicles on the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter runs while shoaling issues are being resolved with the dredging of Big Foot Slough.
“But because we cannot run the Hatteras route, we upped the limit to 30 vehicles,” Bock said. “We are doing every bit we can to help Ocracoke.
Without the Hatteras ferry running, travelers should make reservations for the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries to ensure a spot.
The Pamlico Sound ferries have already had many cancellations in the past few weeks due to low water and shoaling. Dredging in the sound has begun, but that, too, has been interrupted due to recent the adverse weather conditions.
There is no timeline on when N.C. 12 will reopen. One optimistic report said 3:30 p.m. Monday afternoon (approximate low tide), though that will depend on the damage assessment of the roads, which could prompt further delays. Even if the roads are open, vehicles will have to drive through standing water in many areas.
One video widely distributed on Facebook showed the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center inundated by roaring water from the ocean.
The Island Free Press has photos showing substantial damage to buildings on Hatteras Island, and noted that Hatteras schools are closed today.