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Text and photos by Peter Vankevich
A picture is worth one thousand words. The electronic messaging sign is up and running again.
Located at the north end of the village heading to the Hatteras Inlet ferry terminal, the sign was installed in early 2015 at the urging of the N.C. Ferry Division by the N.C. Department of Transportation which manages it remotely from their office in New Bern.
The sign is used primarily for ferry and road-related issues, and has been used during weather emergencies, dangerous rip current conditions and Amber Alerts.
But islanders late last year started noticing it was dark even when there were times it should have been used. The Ocracoke Observer contacted the NCDOT, who confirmed that the sign went down on Dec. 10 when the main control board failed. Madison R. Phillips, the electronics technician supervisor, wrote in an email on Dec. 21 that he hoped it would be fixed and up and running in early January. But more hardware problems with the main controller and modem hampered its restoration.
Finally, it was restored on April 3, though no one seemed to notice since it was still dark. The Observer urged the agency to post a notice, and today the sign is providing two notifications on the ferry service.
This aesthetically unattractive sign serves an important service. A frequent complaint for islanders and travelers over the years had been driving the 12 miles to the Hatteras Inlet ferry terminal, called the South Dock, only to learn that ferries were not running, usually due to fog, high winds or mechanical breakdowns.
The messaging sign has given heads-up about delays, and it also provided good news such as an announcement that the ferry service is back up or the closed road on Hatteras Island had reopened.
We are glad it is back up and running and thank the NCDOT for getting it done.