Outer Banks

A screenshot captured Saturday at Mirlo Beach near Rodanthe shows the surf advancing on Highway 12.
NCDOT / facebook.com

The North Carolina DOT starts a series of public meetings Monday to get feedback about its plans for Highway 12 and new ferry tolls on the Outer Banks. 

The DOT said Monday it would add one departure time to the ferry from Swan Quarter to Ocracoke Island as more over-wash covers Highway 12.  The route faces intermittent closures after last week's winter storm flooded the highway.

Dominion North Carolina Power plans to study the prospect of wind and solar energy on the Outer Banks for small-scale power grids.  The utility is launching a three-year research project at its office in Kitty Hawk. The plans include four wind turbines, solar panels and a storage battery that will work to reduce the amount of power the office pulls from the grid.  Project manager Sarah Cosby says that network creates a so-called micro-grid that could be useful for small communities during power outages.

Dare County brought in a record amount of occupancy taxes in 2012 while a record number of sea turtles nested on Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  Numbers from the Outer Banks Visitors' Bureau show Dare County collected $382 million in occupancy taxes through November of 2012 compared to $367 million during the same period the year before.  The county levies the tax on hotels, motels and beach houses.  At the same time, park rangers reported a record 222 sea turtle nests in 2012. 

Boat builders on the Outer Banks say they're losing millions of dollars worth of business as the Oregon Inlet remains closed. The water there has been too shallow to allow vessels through since November. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it can not afford the $17 million it needs to dredge the inlet. Some business owners told Dare County Commissioners this week they might relocate if the inlet remains impassible. John Bayliss owns a boat building company in Wanchese.

Pop-Up Music Club: Tshombe Selby

Dec 8, 2012
Bryan Blake

This weekend and next, we’re trying something new here at WUNC. We’re calling it the Pop-Up Music Club. It’s a kind of mobile performance adventure, where we hit the road to hear from working North Carolina musicians — up-close and in their element.

We’ll hear them play impromptu gigs on their home turf. We’ll hear the stories they tell in church, and at the bar. And we’ll hear how the culture of the places they call home shapes their music.

Pop-Up Music Club: Tshombe Selby

Dec 8, 2012
Bryan Blake

Highway 12

Dec 6, 2012
Highway 12 wash out
Western Carolina University

In the past two years alone, it has cost the state and federal governments more than $22 million to repair Highway 12. The iconic road on North Carolina's Outer Banks is a lifeline for permanent residents and an economic boon to the region and the state during tourism season. But the shifting sands of the barrier islands may make a permanent road impossible in the near future.

North Carolina Department of Transportation officials will find out this morning if the Nor'easter that skirted the Outer Banks yesterday added to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. NC 12 was washed out in several places and covered with sand in others. There was also damage to the tension cables on Bonner Bridge. Dara Demi works for the DOT. She says repairs could take several weeks.

Department of Transportation officials want coastal residents to be aware that the rainy, windy weather could delay the ferry from Ocracoke Island to Hatteras Island. The Army Corps of Engineers dredged Hatteras Inlet back in May. But DOT spokeswoman Lucy Wallace says shoaling in Hatteras Inlet means it will have to be dredged again. In the meantime, she says passengers should keep an eye on the ferry schedule.

North Carolina Department of Transportation officials are working on permanent fixes for last year's damage from Hurricane Irene on the Outer Banks. Two breaches along Highway 12 are covered with temporary bridges. Beth Smyre is a planning engineer with the DOT. She says permanent spans will be higher and longer than the temporary structures.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it will begin dredging the Hatteras Inlet channel on Saturday, and not a moment too soon for ferry passengers. Service on the Hatteras-Ocracoke route has been suspended several times since the weekend. Lucy Wallace is with the North Carolina Ferry Division.

Scientists are getting a better understanding of storm erosion on the Outer Banks. New technology developed by the Army Corps of Engineers is illuminating why storms damage certain spots and not others. Jesse McNinch is Director of the Corps' Field Research Facility in Duck.

An exhibit about Roanoke Island's role in the Civil War opens at the Outer Banks Visitor Center today. Curator Kaeli Schurr says capturing the island was an important part of the strategy for both the confederacy and the union.

Kaeli Schurr: After a long summer of both sides training troops and devising military strategy, both knew that whoever would be able to control the supply lines would control all of eastern North Carolina. And that led then to being able to disrupt the supply lines from Wilmington up to the Confederate capital in Richmond.

Stingray at NC Aquarium
ncaquariums.com

This summer saw a big jump in the number of people who were stung by stingrays off the coast of Corolla on the Outer Banks. Ocean Rescue officials say the usual number of stings is between one and five. But this year, there were 70 to 100. Olivia Burrus is the curator at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. She's says the stingrays may have found a lot of food in the area.

Hurricane Irene is moving across the Outer Banks this morning. Will Michaels reports the storm was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane, but residents are still seeing high winds and surf up and down the coast.

Irene is cutting a path along the coast between the Outer Banks and the mainland. Meteorologist John Cole is taking cover at the National Weather Service in Morehead City.

The outer bands of Hurricane Irene are making their way across eastern North Carolina. The National Weather Service reports steady rainfall in the Wilmington area and swells of six to nine feet along the Outer Banks. Tommy Hutcherson owns the Ocracoke Variety Store. He says he's making some last-minute preparations before conditions get worse.

State officials are once again urging residents of eastern North Carolina to prepare for Hurricane Irene. Forecasters say the storm is likely to pass directly over the Outer Banks Saturday evening as a Category 3 hurricane. Governor Bev Perdue declared a state of emergency for all counties east of I-95 this morning. Perdue says federal agencies are now ready to respond to potential storm damage.

The National Park Service is accepting public comment about rules governing off-road vehicles on the Outer Banks. North Carolina environmental groups filed a lawsuit in 2007 that said regulators did not have proper rules in place to protect wildlife from vehicles that might disturb sea turtle nests and other natural habitats. At the same time, some North Carolina lawmakers lobbied for beach access to support local businesses. Mike Murray is the superintendent of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

A new study from Duke University explains the source of salinity in well water on the Outer Banks. Professor Avner Vengosh directed the study. He says salinity levels are rising in wells on the Outer Banks. 

Avner Vengosh: "But our study shows the salinity is not derived from sea water intrusion as some had feared before, but its rather from flow of natural occurring ground water originated from fossil sea water."

Aaron Burr, Vice President for Thomas Jefferson’s cabinet, fathered only one child that survived past infancy. Her name was Theodosia Burr Alston, a well-educated and accomplished woman who was highly respected in her time. In the winter of 1812, Theodosia mysteriously disappeared on a ship voyage from South Carolina to New York.

A controversial beach renourishment project is closer to getting underway in Nags Head on the Outer Banks. Town officials are lining up financing and preparing a contract for a company to perform the work. They say pumping dredged sand onto beaches suffering from erosion is a good way to protect the area's valuable shoreline. Nags Head Town Manager Cliff Ogburn says if it goes forward, the additional sand could preserve the beach front for up to a decade:

State senators have tentatively agreed to allow building new jetties along the Outer Banks.

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