Great OBX Surfing Courtesy of Hurricane Gert

The projected path of Hurricane Gert at 11 p.m. August 14.
The projected path of Hurricane Gert at 11 p.m. August 14.

Generally speaking we’re not very big fans of tropical systems and hurricanes here on the Outer Banks. But then along comes a system like Hurricane Gert that is taking the perfect offshore track.

Offshore Hurricane Track for Great Surf Conditions

That perfect track is well off shore, between the Outer Banks and Bermuda.

And the reason it’s a perfect track is the surf. And tomorrow—Tuesday—local surfers will be out in force.

Tropical systems, when they take the track Hurricane Gert is taking create a close to perfect conditions as there can be. Long straight swells with a reasonable time between waves.

The biggest surf is forecast for Buxton and south where the south facing beach should be getting 6-9’ seas. That’s definitely a day for more experiences surfers.

A little more tame, but still excellent, the surf forecast for the northern beaches is calling for 5-6’ seas.

This is a little bit weather dependent. If the winds are fairly strong and shift to the east, the break won’t be nearly as good, but the last forecast calls for very light ESE winds, which should have very little impact on the waves.

As the storm tracks to the northeast, the best waves will move up the coast. Late night as we write this, Hatteras already has 5’ seas and with the best conditions between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Farther north, look for the best conditions by noon, and the break should be good until sunset.

Gert is behaving pretty much the way hurricanes tend to act as they pass offshore. She’s taking her good old time right now, but beginning tomorrow morning she’ll start to pick up speed as the storm gets caught in the frontal boundary that is keeping her away from the coast.

Because of that, the ideal surf conditions will be a one day event…but that one day looks to be pretty spectacular.

Surfing for Autism Comes to Nags Head Beach

Learning how to stay on a surf board before the big event.
Learning how to stay on a surf board before the big event.

Tomorrow morning is the big day for Surfing for Autism. Hundreds of kids affected by the full range of the autism spectrum take to the surf at Jennette’s Pier.

This is the 8th time in a row that the local organization Surfing for Autism has put on the event, and it seems to get more popular every year.

Friday Evening

They’ve gotten better at it too. There was a dinner tonight, Friday, and an award ceremony where local business Surfin’ Spoon was honored for the support given to the organization over the years.

Former pro surfer Jesse Hines and his wife Whitney own the business and their support has been exceptional—$15,000 contributed to insure that any child with autism who wants to see what it’s like to ride a wave can do so.

What was also done this year, that has not been done in the past is to take the siblings of the autistic kids out on Jennette’s Pier to go fishing. Admittedly the evening fishing was pretty slow, but that didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the kids.

Mark Slagle, who was one of the founding member of Surfing for Autism, remarked that the idea was that it’s important to include all of the family members in the experience, not just the kids with autism.

Saturday Surfing for Autism Event

The actual event has dozens of local surfers on the water with the kids, walking them out to the break on boards and showing them how to catch a wave. A lot of the time the surfer rides the board in with the child, but occasionally someone will really catch a wave.

It is an extraordinary thing to witness—powerful and emotional.

In the day to day struggles in helping their children deal with a world that often does not understand what is happening, some of the small things that many families take for granted are missed.

But on this day, the beach is filled with joy, laughter and pride.

Power Restored-Hatteras Island Reopens to Visitors

Generator leaving Ocracoke after power was restored on Friday.
Generator leaving Ocracoke after power was restored on Friday.
Mandatory Evacuation Lifted Sooner Than Expected

Just nine days after a construction accident cut the line carrying power to Hatteras Island and Ocracoke, repairs have been made and power is flowing again.

That is really impressive. Original estimates put the power outage at two to three weeks with the possibility of an even longer delay.

Although bad, the damage was not quite as extensive as first feared. Repairs still included splicing high voltage lines and constructing a new set of overhead lines to get the electricity out of the construction zone as much as possible.

Once the repairs were complete on Friday, limited access to Hatteras and Ocracoke was lifted and all were welcome.

During the nine days it took to repair the line, the state and Dare County worked to bring in generators to provide minimal power. However, they could not provide adequate energy to run air conditioners. Even with the auxiliary power, rolling blackouts were mandated and concern about having enough power to pump water were raised.

Because of the uncertain nature of the power, mandatory evacuations were ordered. Only residents and essential personnel were allowed in the affected areas.

What Happened

All of the facts  have not yet been released. It appears, however, that workers for PCL, the construction company building the replacement span for the Bonner Bridge, severed the line when they were driving a steel casing into the ground.

The casing, used to hold pilings in place during construction, was being set aside for storage, What the worker were doing, according to reports, was the equivalent of driving a shovel into the ground.

If that is borne out after all the facts are examined, it is perhaps doubly tragic because it did not have to happen. What the workers were doing had almost nothing to do with construction and could be viewed as an action designed for the worker’s convenience and perhaps a little efficiency.

Watermelon Festival-Kids, Family, Fun

Getting ready for the Watermelon Eating contest.
Getting ready for the Watermelon Eating contest.
A Perfect Day to Celebrate Watermelon

During the summer there’s not a lot of large celebrations, mostly because just about everyone is concentrating on making sure our visitors are treated like guests and they that they’re having a great time.

But there are a few, let’s call them, mini-festivals and one of our absolute favorites is the Kitty Hawk Kites Watermelon Festival at the company’s Jockey’s Ridge Crossing store in Nags Head. They list it as the 11th Annual Watermelon Festival, but those of us who have lived here longer remember the Festivals going back longer than that.

What it really is, is a celebration of kids, family and summer. Because let’s face it—fresh watermelon is about as perfectly summer as it gets.

So what is?

It’s all about kids. Yes, Mom and Dad will have a great time, but the activities are really geared to children. There’s face painting, tie dye shirt making and toy demos—the balance board was really cool.

There were great activities. Stanley the Shark—think a mechanical bull only a shark—was getting a real workout inside Kitty Hawk Surf Company. The inflatable waterslide is always popular and kids were lined up all day.

One that was really cool…or maybe cold. Kids, and some adults, stuck their hand in a bath of ice water then immediately dipped their hand into soft wax creating an image of their hand.

The highlight of any Watermelon Festival, though, has to be the contests. The seed spitting and the watermelon eating.

Always highly competitive, ultimately it’s all about having fun. Nonetheless, the eating contestants really gave it their all, champing their way through three large pieces of watermelon in hope of taking home the grand prize…whatever that may have been.

Is the Kitty Hawk Kites Watermelon Festival a huge day of celebration? No, not really. But at the end of the day, what it really is all about is what the Outer Banks does best…family, kids and fun.

Zeppelin Tribute Band ZoSo Rocks RIFP

ZoSo, Led Zeppelin tribute band in performance at Roanoke Island Festival Park.
ZoSo, Led Zeppelin tribute band in performance at Roanoke Island Festival Park.

There is a reason why Led Zeppelin is considered one of the best, and usually the best, rock ’n’ roll band ever. Four incredibly talented musicians who understood what they wanted to do with their music and they did it well…better than anyone.

Who is ZoSo?

Matching that style, matching that sound isn’t easy, but ZoSo, a Zeppelin tribute band does it as well as anyone.

Matt Jernigan’s voice is as close to Robert Plant’s as it could be; John McDaniel on lead guitar really seems to understand what Page was doing. Bassist Adam Sandling sounds like John Paul Jones and Bevan Davies on drums matches Bonham beat for beat.

And that’s not an easy task.

For all that almost every Zepplin song has a melody that is memorable…catchy, at times…this is not easy music to perform.

What really seems to set ZoSo apart from other tribute bands is how meticulous they are in matching the original look and feel. The band dresses like Led Zeppelin did; they use the same instruments and best of all, the same arrangements, and they nailed it last night at Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo.

This was the second time the band has played RIFP, but the third attempt. Labor Day last year, they were supposed to be on the Outer Banks but Tropical Storm Hermine had a different idea and the concert had to be cancelled.

Honestly, it did look a bit iffy yesterday—Saturday, with a nor’easter threatening, but there was nice break in the weather that ran from 7-10 p.m. The wind was picking up from the north by the end of the show, and there was a light drizzle, but shows this good don’t come along too often. It was worth the slight misery, if that’s what it was.

Hatteras Power Blackout-Northern Beaches Unaffected

Digging for the severed cable at the south end of the Bonner Bridge construction zone. Photo, Outer Banks Voice.
Digging for the severed cable at the south end of the Bonner Bridge construction zone. Photo, Outer Banks Voice.

The news just came out a little while ago, that Hatteras Island is being evacuated. This is a manmade catastrophe, and has nothing whatsoever to do with Mother Nature.

What Happened?

Early yesterday morning, PCL Construction who is building the new Bonner Bridge, was pounding a piling into the south end of Oregon Inlet.

When they cut through a power cable carrying electricity to Hatteras Island and Ocracoke the effect was immediate. All power south of Oregon Inlet was immediately lost.

Joe Lamb, Jr. visitors, please note—this does not effect anything from Nags Head north, where our Joe Lamb, Jr. properties are located.

But the effect on our friends on Hatteras Island and Ocracoke is dramatic and difficult to witness.

Although there are emergency generators on hand, and more are coming, they are designed to handle emergency power loads only. The generators cannot handle air conditioning and residents have been told to expect rolling blackouts.

Evacuations Ordered

Hyde County ordered Ocracoke evacuated yesterday, Thursday, and Dare County ordered Hatteras Island evacuated today. Governor Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency, allowing some weight restrictions to be lifted on trucks to more efficiently move supplies and more generators.

There is considerable uncertainty about how long repairs will take. Cape Hatteras Electric Coop (CHEC) who manages the power grid on Hatters Island put out a statement saying,  “CHEC is working to assess the extent of the damage and plan for the repair. Assuming that the cooperative has the materials on hand, repairs could take several days to complete. If materials are not available locally, repairs could take weeks.”

The latest information is the original contractor who laid the power cable is on hand and PCL is working to excavate the site and inspect the cable.

ZoSo Comes to Roanoke Island Festival Park Stage

ZoSo will perform at the Roanoke Island Festival Park Pavillion this Saturday.
ZoSo will perform at the Roanoke Island Festival Park Pavillion this Saturday.

After ZoSo had to cancel their Labor Day show at Roanoke Island Festival last year courtesy of Tropical Storm Hermine it left fans dazed and confused.

Who Is ZoSo

It’s been so long that’s been true, but ZoSo, a Led Zeppelin tribute band, is coming back to the Outer Banks this Saturday, July 29. The show will be at RIFP. The forecast for early in the day looks a bit damp, but by the time they take the stage, it should be a very pleasant summer evening.

The outdoor stage at RIFP may be the perfect place to see them. With the Roanoke Sound as a backdrop and an excellent sound system, this could be a musical highlight for the summer.

We haven’t had a chance to see them in person, but looking over the reviews, ZoSo may be the best of the tribute bands out there. Made up of four very talented musicians, the band has been together for a number of years and by all accounts they look and sound a lot like the original.

Saturday should be an interesting evening of music. According to the information ZoSo puts out, the band focuses their show around better known Zeppelin pieces, but like to through in a few lesser know songs.  With well over 100 songs recorded by the group over their time together, there is plenty to choose from.

Gates open at 6:00 p.m. with a 7:30 showtime.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate because there’s still a whole lot of love through good times and bad times for Led Zeppelin.

Hot Days, Cold Waters on the Outer Banks

Sea surface temperatures off the Outer Banks, July 24. The Rutgers Coastal Observation Lab map is a bit difficult to follow but the blue next to the Outer Banks shows colder near shore waters.
Sea surface temperatures off the Outer Banks, July 24. The Rutgers Coastal Observation Lab map is a bit difficult to follow but the blue next to the Outer Banks shows colder near shore waters.
Hot Days Create Cold Waters

The daytime temperature have been pretty hot on the Outer Banks for the past couple of days. Actually, the summer overall, has been warm with most days over 90.

That heat hasn’t transferred to the ocean, though.

It’s a shock to the system hitting jumping into the water when the temperature difference between air and water is 30 degrees or so. To be sure, after the surprise wears off, it sure feels go, but that first burst of cold is a jolt to the system.

For the past four or five weeks the ocean water temperature has been struggling to get out of the 50s, and today’s 66 degree water temp was the highest it’s been in some time. Just two days ago, the water temperature was 58 degrees at the Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility (Duck Pier).

Which begs the question, “If it’s been so hot outside, why has the water stayed so cold.”

The Explanation

There’s a combination of factors that are creating that wide temperature spread between air temperature and water temperature.

It’s hard to say just what the most important piece of the puzzle is, but starting with the wind is a good place.

For almost the entire summer to date, the wind has been consistently from the southwest. Summertime winds are generally from that direction, but this year there has been no significant deviation from that.

The way ocean temperatures vary is the next piece of the puzzle. In January, Outer Banks ocean temperatures are in the low 50s. Typically by mid July, they are around 85—a 30 degree variance.

What is heating the water is sunlight. Remembering high school physics, cold air and cold water sink, meaning the warmer water is on the surface and the colder water sinks to the bottom.

During an extended period of offshore winds—southwest—the warmer surface water is pushed away from the shore, allowing the colder water to upwell and come ashore.

Pretty cool? Or cold, perhaps.

Hilton the Shark Heads North from Outer Banks

The track of Hilton the Great White Shark since he was tagged in March of this year.
The track of Hilton the Great White Shark since he was tagged in March of this year.

Hilton the Great White Shark seems to have passed the Outer Banks by. Around 2:00 p.m. he pinged about 15 or 20 miles off Kill Devil Hills.

Hilton was tagged earlier this year off Hilton Head. He’s a 1250 pound shark. It’s difficult to say how old he is, but at that size, he’s probably just passing his teenage years as sharks go.

Shark Migration

He seems to be heading north, which would be consistent with studies of Atlantic Great White Sharks that have been done.

They tend to summer between Massachusetts and New Jersey then head to Florida for the winter. It would appear he is a little behind schedule for what is typically seen for Great Whites, but the Atlantic species have not been studied as extensively as their Pacific counterparts.

The Other Pinger

By comparison, Katherine the Great White Shark has been tracked since she was tagged off Cape Cod in 2013 and she has shown herself to be a world traveler. She has traveled from the Caribbean to the Grand Banks of Canada.

Katherine is much larger shark than Hilton—about 2300 pounds and measures a little over 14’.

This year she toured the waters of Bermuda before heading west. Her most recent ping was just off the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Katherine has been a visitor to Outer Banks waters, usually in the winter. If that is the case, she is probably heading back to the warmer waters of Florida and the Caribbean.

The pings are created when the shark breaks the surface for 90 seconds, allowing three pings that will fix the location.

The sharks are tagged by OCEARCH, an international organization who has been studying tiger and great white sharks, hoping to help with conservation efforts.

Toasting Sunday Brunch-10 a.m. Liquor Sales Come to OBX

Mimosas with a morning Sunday brunch are now part of the Outer Banks scene.
Mimosas with a morning Sunday brunch are now part of the Outer Banks scene.

We can now raise a morning Sunday Brunch class of wine, beer or even a mixed drink at most locations on the Outer Banks.

Not all—but most.

The Brunch Bill

On June 30 SB155, often referred to as the Brunch Bill was signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper. The bill allows alcohol sales before noon on Sundays. Before it was signed, sales of alcohol were prohibited before noon—a legal requirement that frankly left many Outer Banks visitors scratching their heads.

The new bill allow sales at begin at 10 a.m. on Sundays.

There is a catch though. Local jurisdictions have to approve the measure.

Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores and Manteo moved quickly to approve an ordinance allowing the earlier sales. In a head scratcher, Nags Head town council postponed their vote to allow citizens to give their input. The rescheduled vote will occur next Wednesday, July 19.

A Little Controversy

Actually Nags Head Commissioners were not the o

nly one’s who wanted to give their residents a chance for public comment. Although the Kitty Hawk Town Council passed the resolution unanimously, Councilman Jeff Pruitt raised the same issue, saying:

‘I personally don’t know what the people of Kitty Hawk feel about this.…I kind of wish that there had been some way for some kind of a public hearing so we could hear from the residents of Kitty Hawk before we take a vote.”

Dare and Currituck Counties will take up the measure on Monday, July 17.

The bill enjoys wide support from Outer Bank businesses. Restaurants owners especially felt the prohibition against selling mixed drinks, wine or beer was hurting their Sunday sales.

The upshot, though, of the votes by the towns that did vote to approve is that wine and beer will be available in retail stores beginning at 10 a.m. Wine, beer and mixed drinks will be available at restaurants beginning at the same time on Sundays.