Sound water breaches the bulkheads in Oyster Creek on Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

The Ocracoke Preservation Society has postponed the World War II talk scheduled for Wednesday due to impacts from a low pressure system parked off the Outer Banks.

High winds have suspended the ferries to Ocracoke since late Sunday afternoon and a coastal flood warning remains in effect from Duck to Buxton through Thursday morning.

N.C Highway 12 is closed from Oregon Inlet to the village of Rodanthe, the NCDOT said in a press release today.

The storm has brought strong winds and large waves to the Outer Banks for the last three days.

As a result, N.C. 12 is covered with sand and deep ocean over wash at the Pea Island Visitor Center and at the ‘S-Curves’ just north of Rodanthe, the N.C. Department of Transportation said. 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. 

NC 12 on Pea Island. NCDOT photo.

NCDOT crews spent Tuesday morning and much of the afternoon trying to clear the roadway and build a protective berm to prevent the road from being undermined. As conditions allow, crews will continue to clear the road on Wednesday so it can be reopened to traffic as soon as possible. The weather forecast calls for slowly improving conditions beginning late Wednesday into Thursday.

The National Weather Service at Newport/Morehead City said over wash—particularly on Hatteras Island—may continue to occur through at least Wednesday evening.

“We’re sorry that it can’t happen this week to help us remember and honor the fallen crew of the HMT Bedfordshire,” said Sundae Horn, OPS event coordinator, about the talk cancellation.

She said they will reschedule the talk later this summer.

Duffus, author of “War Zone,” about World War II on the Outer Banks, was to present a talk, “War Zone: When World War II Was Fought off Ocracoke’s Beaches,” which includes video interviews with several now-deceased Ocracokers about life on Ocracoke during that time.

“It’s a disappointment, certainly, but our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this week’s nor’easter,” Duffus said about the cancellation. “I have been excited for the opportunity, thanks to Ocracoke Preservation Society, to share the memories of some of the island’s beloved residents and how their lives were impacted by World War II. They may all be gone but their voices are still alive, thanks to the interviews I did with them in 2001.

“They will still get to tell their story when we are able to reschedule my presentation, hopefully this summer, which will continue to be the 80th anniversary of the tumultuous summer of ’42.”

The talk was to be part of the 80th British Cemetery Ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday remembering the sinking of H.M.T. Bedfordshire, a British trawler, off the North Carolina coast on May 11, 1942, and which have been remembered every year since except for 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following that sinking, the bodies of four British sailors washed up on Ocracoke. They are interred in the British Cemetery, a small patch of England, along British Cemetery Road.

There’s no word yet as to whether Friday’s ceremony will be postponed.

Rising waters like this on Back Road can be seen all over Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

Mail has not arrived on the island for two days, said Celeste Brooks, Ocracoke’s postmaster, and she does not expect mail to get here on Wednesday, though she was optimistic about Thursday.

The NCDOT reported that the Tuesday night’s high tide was the worst one so far in this storm. High tide today was at 3:30 p.m.

The NCDOT said this on Twitter:

“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.

“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.

“Keep in mind that ocean water, sand and debris can easily damage a vehicle and that other hazards—including significant road damage—may be hidden by flood waters.”  

Additionally, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore has confirmed that an unoccupied house at 24265 Ocean Drive, Rodanthe, collapsed this afternoon. This is the second unoccupied house collapse of the day at the Seashore.

The beach near Ocean Drive is closed and law enforcement officials will close Ocean Drive shortly. Visitors are cautioned to stay away from the beach in this area. As photos and videos from near the collapsed house sites are taken, they will be posted to the Seashore’s Flickr page.

For real-time travel information along the Outer Banks, visit DriveNC.gov or follow NCDOT on social media.

Continue to monitor updated weather conditions from the National Weather Service at www.weather.gov/mhx

Windy South Point on May 10. Photo: C. Leinbach