When Rain Goes Away Musicians Come Out to Play

First Friday in downtown Manteo. It looks like the rain will be gone and it should be a good evening for music and visiting.
First Friday in downtown Manteo. It looks like the rain will be gone and it should be a good evening for music and visiting.
Live Outdoor Music Back on Tap for Upcoming Week

We have had a lot of rain here on the Outer Banks over the past week. If the rain gauge at the Dare County Airport on Roanoke Island is accurate—and it’s the official record keeper—it looks like 14” over the past seven days.

We’ve had a couple of breaks in the clouds and the sun has come out from time to time, but honestly? It’s time for the rain to go away. And if the weather forecast is accurate, we’re going to have another day or day and a half of this, then finally some consistent nice weather.

When it finally clears up, we can go back to some got the things that make summer on the Outer Banks so special.

All of the small outdoor music venues had to cancel their shows this past week. That would be places like Ocean Boulevard, with it’s wonderful setting on the beach road. Or the roof top venue at Rundown Cafe. Both of those are n Kitty Hawk.

In Nags Head it would be hard to find a better place to relax with a drink, watch the sunset over the Roanoke Sound and listen to music than Pamlico Jacks.

And those are just a few of the venues that had to cancel shows this week because of the weather…and thankfully, the weather is looking like it’s going to cooperate for Tuesday evening on.

That also means things are looking great for First Friday this coming Friday in downtown Manteo.

First Friday has truly become one of the Outer Banks summer traditions that people really look forward to. There is four or five block area along the water front in the town that is ideal for enjoying live music, some sidewalk cafes, some art and a night out.

There’s always a lot happening on the Outer Banks. Check out our Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates homes for the perfect location to enjoy all the there is to do and see.

Outer Banks Safety Tips for a Great Vacation

When the red caution flags are flying, please don't swim in the ocean.
When the red caution flags are flying, please don’t swim in the ocean.

For very good reasons the Outer Banks is one of the most popular places for families to visit. Fantastic summer weather, great beaches and the ocean is usually a great place to go swimming.

But usually is not always, and there are some days when going in the ocean is dangerous. We call them red flag days because there is always a red flag with no swimming printed on it in bold letter when it’s not safe to go in the water.

The red flags are almost always raised because of the threat of rip currents. Sometimes the surf is so angry that the red flags will go up, but especially in the summer, it’s rip currents.

What is a Rip Current

A rip current is a channel of water that is flowing out to sea.

What causes a rip current are the natural fluctuations in the seabed.
Waves break on sandbars. The sandbar does not have to be particularly high to cause a wave to break, but it does have to be higher than the seabed directly seaward of it. If there is a gap between the sandbars, there will be nothing to cause the waves to break there and as the water flows out, it will naturally flow to that channel.

Because there is no inflowing waves to disrupt the water that is being channeled out to sea, the outgoing water can gain considerable force—far more force that even the strongest swimmer can overcome.

Visually, rip currents tend to be somewhat deceptive. Because there are no waves in the area of the rip current, it often appears as the calmest stretch of water around. It is not!

Safety Tips

A couple of important things to know about rip currents—safety tips that we hope will never be necessary:

  1. Rip currents do not drown swimmers. People drown because they panic and try to swim into the current exhausting themselves.
  2. Do not panic. Swim either parallel to the shore or with the current. When the rip current dissipates, swim into shore.
  3. Rip currents are nearshore events. They only exist in the surf zone. No breaking waves, no rip current.

There are some safety tips that we would like to pass along.:

  1. Do not go in the ocean if the red flags are flying. In the summer, the red flags are almost always warn of riptides. The National Weather Service has gotten quite good at predicting them, so if the flags are flying please do not go in the water.
  2. Swim by a lifeguard.
  3. Go to the beach with someone or in a group.

Red flag days are fairly rare during the summer. Occasionally if a storm is passing offshore, there will be two or three days in a row, but for the most part it’s one day and then the flags come down. Take that day to go shopping or take in some Outer Banks history.

Here at Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates. we want your visit with us to be everting you hoped it would be. A little bit of caution will go a long way to making sure you and your family have a great time on the Outer Banks.

Nor’easters Create Perfect Conditions for Big Surf Waves

Surfing the break at Kitty Hawk, March 7. Photo, Brent Nultemeier.
Surfing the break at Kitty Hawk, March 7. Photo, Brent Nultemeier.
Amazing Conditions Greet Surfers on Wednesday

Maybe it was the back to back nor’easters that created the perfect conditions for the waves that rolled in on Wednesday. Maybe it was the wind shifting just enough to the west to stack those massive waves, so they were no longer an unreadable swirl of currents.

Whatever it was, something happened yesterday to create an almost perfect winter surfing day.

Make no mistake, this was a day for the best only. Ten and twelve foot waves—and a few bigger—breaking 75 yards offshore are conditions only suited for the most experienced, but the action for those few who did get out there was incredible.

Significant Impacts Experienced

That is not to lessen the impact of the storms that battered the Outer Banks this past week. Somehow NCDOT has managed to get the S Curves north of Rodanthe opened almost immediately after being completely under water. A remarkable feat, but it also means Hatteras Island is not cut off from the rest of the world.

North of Oregon Inlet the relentless pounding of that perfect combination of storms pushed seawater over parts of the Beach Road in Nags Head and on the north end of Kitty Hawk.

In spite of the overwash, it does look as though the beaches that were nourished have held up well. Nourishment is used for shoreline and infrastructure protection. Five days of 12-15’ waves with a strong onshore wind is going to push water inland no matter what.

At first glance though, it looks like the overwash in Kitty Hawk was not nearly as severe as it has been in the past, and critical areas of the Beach Road that have been washed out as recently as last year, were not affected at all.

It looks as though there is another storm brewing, forecast to push offshore this weekend. Like the past two, the brunt of its power will be to the north of the Outer Banks…but the waves will certainly be rolling in.

Springtime in February on the Outer Banks

An even break and warm weather in February bought the surfers out.
An even break and warm weather in February bought the surfers out.
A Great Day to Be on the Beach

A day like we had today is a rare Outer Banks treat in February. Warm temperatures, a breeze from the southwest and the waves were breaking beautifully this morning.

Of course, the water temperature is still 45-50 degrees, so no one was in the water in shorts, but there were still a fair number of surfers and SUPs on the water—in dry suits.

It’s still a little early to tell, but it may be that a sandbar is forming across from where John’s Drive-in is located.

One of the effects of beach nourishment—and the entire Kitty Hawk beach was nourished—is sand from the beach forms a sandbar in the near shore. That sandbar is the part of the way beach nourishment protects the roads and homes along the shoreline.

If a sandbar is forming there, it would be there first time in a while that a sandbar has appeared there.

Farther north, a little south of Pelican’s Perch—that’s the pink Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates home that sits out on the beach—the sandbar is well formed and there were a number of surfers and SUP catching some waves.

It wasn’t just surfers enjoying a rare springlike day in February; dogs were out with their friends, their barks filled with joy. Quite a number of couples were strolling along the beach looking for sea glass and interesting shells.

A man with a metal detector was scouring the sand. Hadn’t found much though—an old nail that appeared to be square cut, raising the possibility that it came from a  wooden shipwreck—although that would be a remote possibility.

Of course 70 degrees in February is different than 70 degrees in July, but today was a great tease for the upcoming season.

And…it looks as though we’ll have a few more days like today on tap.

Back to Normal on Outer Banks as Frigid Temperatures Retreat

Ducks, geese and sea birds at Kitty Hawk Bay escaping the north wind.
Ducks, geese and sea birds at Kitty Hawk Bay escaping the north wind.

With temperatures finally climbing above freezing it looks as though Snowmageddon is finally coming to an end on the Outer Banks.

Effects of Cold Temperatures and Heavy Snowfall

Not completely back to normal yet. Dare County Schools will be closed on Monday—that’s three snow days in a row. But county roads are still not completely cleared and the decision is a good one.

The main roads are cleared—and NCDOT, after what many considered a slow start, did put a number of plows on the roads to get them cleared. The problem is the secondary roads still have a lot of packed ice on them, and it’s doubtful if that will melt before noon tomorrow.

The kids are all celebrating, of course, but all that time will have to be made up at some point.

The snow certainly snarled things, but what really set this particular event apart from other was the extreme cold. We had four days in a row where daytime temperatures didn’t even come close to reaching the freezing mark.

Admittedly for someone living in Chicago or Bangor, Maine, that may not seem so odd, but here by the Atlantic Ocean, 250 miles or so south of the Mason Dixon Line, it’s not so common.

The storm also brought some very strong winds with it. At 2:20 a.m. Thursday morning Jennette’s Pier recorded a 74 mph gust with sustained winds of 63 mph. The measurements are taken on the pier itself, so winds on land are not quite as strong, but things were pretty lively for a while there including a thunder snowstorm.

The sounds are solid ice about 150 to 200 yards offshore, depending on where the winds are located. Kitty Hawk Bay, which is sheltered from the north winds, has more ice on it than areas where the waters are churned up by the winds.

Kitty Hawk Bay, though, is also where the ducks, geese and shorebirds have fled for protection.

The forecast for the next few days calls for moderating temperatures, and even a few above normal. We’ll take that and be ready for the next snow…just in case there is one.

Hurricane Maria Effects Southern Outer Banks

National Hurricane Center 5:00 p.m. track, 9/25. Core of storm will remain well offshore.
National Hurricane Center 5:00 p.m. track, 9/25. Core of storm will remain well offshore.
Hurricane Maria Effects on Outer Banks

Even though the center of Hurricane Maria is going to remain far out to sea, as a precautionary step Ocracoke and Hatteras Island have evacuated all visitors. This does not effect the northern Outer Banks—Nags Head to Corolla—at all.

The concern in this case is ocean overwash, especially north of Rodanthe at the S Curves. If that section of NC 12 becomes impassable, there is no way to drive to Hatteras or Ocracoke. Residents in those areas are typically well-provisioned for a two or three day standoff with the elements, but the concerns about a few thousand visitors added to the mix were realistic.

Although the full effects of Maria will remain well offshore, Tuesday and Wednesday look to be unpleasant days. The area is under a tropical storm warning; however, the local forecasts do not call for tropical storm conditions. Wind—yes; and some rain. But sustained winds, according to what we’re seeing, should remain below the 39 mph threshold for tropical storm conditions.

The ocean is another story, though. At present, wave forecasts are running between 15’-23’ with the largest waves crashing ashore in Rodanthe. If the waves are that large, the S Curves will be impassable and will remain that way probably until Thursday afternoon or Friday.

How Maria is Behaving

The problem is the Maria’s behavior. It seems as though she want to hang around.

The National Hurricane Center comments seem to sum up what’s happening.

Acknowledging first that, “Maria continues its slow northward trek.” The NHC then goes on to ad a qualifier. “…the forward speed is atypically slow…”

The good news is that after the “atypically slow…” trek off the Outer Banks coast, Maria will make a sharp turn to the north and east rapidly accelerate out to sea as she loses strength.

Rip Current Basics-Some Safety Tips

An Outer Banks rip current shown with green dye. Part of a National Weather Service study.
An Outer Banks rip current shown with green dye. Part of a National Weather Service study.

We had nice warm day today on the Outer Banks—a great day to get an ocean swim in. Beautiful ocean temperatures. The surf was beginning to come up but it wasn’t too bad.

What is a Rip Curent

Today though, might be the last day to get in the ocean for a few days, though. Although Hurricane Jose looks like it’s going to bypass the Outer Banks, it’s it’s going to be kicking up some pretty rough surf and with that there’s a high risk of rip currents.

If there is a number one danger to swimming in the ocean, it has to be rip currents.

There is a lot of ongoing study trying to understand what causes them although some things are known. They are much more likely to occur during high tide and they tend to occur in the vicinity of sandbars.

As a wave breaks on the beach, it rolls off the sand and back out to sea. Generally the waves retreat at a fairly even pace, but if some of the water moves faster than water on either side, a rip current may form.

As an example, if there is a gap in a sandbar, water will move more quickly through the gap than the water next to it. Wave action is the number one factor causing rip currents. The bigger the waves, the more likely they will form.

There are quite a number of factors that can create a rip current. However, although common, they are not everyday occurrences.

Safety Tips for Swimmers

Rip currents are not dangerous to swimmers! They frequently catch swimmers by surprise, and when they do, panic often sets in. The danger is in panicking and trying to fight the current, which will quickly exhaust even the strongest swimmer.

Some things about rip currents that are important to know.

Do not fight the current—it is far stronger than any swimmer. Either swim with the current until it dies out—that could take you a fair ways offshore. Or swim parallel to the beach.

A rip current occurs on the surface of the water (That’s one way that it’s different from undertow.) If too tired to swim or confused, float or tread water. Either way the swimmer’s body will be supported because the current is on the surface.

With a little experience, it is possible to identify a rip current. Look for smooth water in the midst of the waves. Observe it closely; if there is an outward flow, that’s a rip current…don’t go in at that spot.

With Jose tracking up the coast after the weekend, waves are forecast to be 8-12’ so ocean swimming is not a good idea, but for other times, a little knowledge about rip currents should go a long way.

A Great Day to Fly a Kite on the Beach

Gavin Carey showing his kite flying skills on the beach in Kitty Hawk.
Gavin Carey showing his kite flying skills on the beach in Kitty Hawk.
Near Perfect Conditions for Kite Flying

It was a great day to fly a kite on an Outer Banks beach. The wind was from the northeast at a steady 15mph, which is the perfect direction for a great time in a beautiful setting.

Someone had a small dragon kite in the sky, it’s red tail trailing the head as it danced in the wind.

But the fascinating story was the stunt kite dancing across the sky. There is something magical about watching a father and son fly a kite. The father, Craig Carey, was good, but kudos go to Gavin, his son.

The force of a 15mph wind on a 72” kite is amazing. And yes, Gavin—who is 11—did get dragged around a bit, but he had the kite under control the whole time.

A Cool, Windy Day

The sun was out, with a few clouds here and there, but the daytime temperatures remained cool, at least cool for early September. The wind and those cooler temperatures are part of the system that is steering Hurricane Irma and keeping the storm well to the south and west of the Outer Banks.

The red flags were flying and no sane person was going to go in the water today. Courtesy of Hurricane Irma, the surf was a churning mess with seas running 5-6’.

Although the hurricane is tracking up the west side of the Florida Peninsula, it is so large that it’s sending waves far to the north. Frequently those hurricane generated waves are a surfer’s delight but with the wind from the northeast instead of offshore, the break never had a chance to form.

Things should calm down later in the week—just in time for the ESAs, the Eastern Surf Association Championship at Jennette’s Pier September 17-23.

The ESA one of the largest amateur surfing organizations in the world, and the championship tournament bring out some outstanding surfers. Don’t let that “amateur” label mislead. A number of the older surfers are former pros and the better younger surfers use the ESAs as a training ground for professional competition.

Visitors Still Fill Outer Banks Roads

Vernal Pond at Jockey's Ridge. Waters are remaining above ground much longer than has been seen in the past.
Vernal Pond at Jockey’s Ridge. Waters are remaining above ground much longer than has been seen in the past.
Visitors Extend Outer Banks Stay

It’s the week after Labor Day and the roads are still filled with our visitors. That’s great. Here at Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates we love our guests and we’re thrilled so many have decided to stay another week.

The big news, of course, up and down the East Coast is Hurricane Irma, and it does look as though the Outer Banks will be spared. There is, of course relief, but it’s hard not to be concerned—even frightened—for what so many have gone through and will go through.

It has been a great summer with lots of fantastic beach days. Somehow in all of that, though, a lot of rain fell. At last check, the Outer Banks was about 75% over average for the summer.

That much rain does have and effect, and one of the most dramatic examples of that is at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head.

Across from the observation deck there is always a small pond at the base of the dune.

Called a vernal pond, it is an interesting phenomenon. Created by groundwater being forced to the surface, it is typically fairly small, although during periods of heavy rain it does swell.

And swell it has this year, to a size that is only seen after a tropical system dumps 5” or 6” on Jockey’s Ridge. The difference with what we are seeing now, is the pond has not shrunk.

The effect of vegetation is dramatic. Grasses are sprouting up where there has been none for years. Botanists we have spoken to are divided on whether that is long dormant seeds springing to life or windblown seeds.

The past few years have been a little bit over average for rainfall—althoough nothing like this year, and woody plants are becoming more apparent, especially along the banks of the more established parts of the pond.

There are other very different characteristics of the pond, now that it’s some 12 or 15 times larger that it has been. It’s so unique, so much an amazing example of nature at work, that a trip to see it is worthwhile.

TS Irma? Maybe but Rain and Wind on OBX Tuesday

When it gets too nasty to do nourishment work. Nourishment equipment parked at Wilkin's Street ramp in Kitty Hawk.
When it gets too nasty to do nourishment work. Nourishment equipment parked at Wilkins Street ramp in Kitty Hawk.

Will the latest system off the South Carolina coast become Tropical Storm Irma? Does it really matter?

The answers are, in the order asked: Maybe, although it’s looking a bit doubtful. And…no not really.

Will It Get a Name?

Naming a tropical system means the storm has met certain criteria that the National Weather Service uses to designate a tropical system. Mostly that there is a core of circulation with thunderstorms forming around that core.

Potential Tropical Cyclone Ten, which will become TS Irma if it is named, does not have a well-defined center of circulation. So poorly defined is what might be a center of circulation that the National Hurricane Center isn’t sure exactly where it is, or if there is one…at least in their 11 p.m. report.

What Potential Tropical Cyclone Ten is at this point is nasty coastal storm. It’s a little bit like a strong nor’easter only a lot warmer. There’s a lot of wind and rain, but a far cry from some of the more powerful nor’easters or tropical systems we’ve seen.

If Potential Tropical Cyclone Ten was named Irma tomorrow, that wouldn’t change anything. The all of the forecast models are in agreement that the storm will brush the Outer Banks and then hurry out to sea. Whether it’s a named storm or just a strong one, the track of the system remains the same and there’s very little chance it will intensify by tomorrow.

Effect on Beach Nourishment

This is the first test of the sections of beach that have been nourished. We haven’t had a chance to see what’s happening along the shoreline yet, although a quick first glimpse in Kitty Hawk seemed to indicate all is well.

There will be some loss of sand, but that is a design feature. The sand will form a sandbar that is the first line of protection for the shoreline.

It’s important to remember that beach nourishment is a shoreline protection tool. A byproduct of the process is a wider beach, but reason for nourishment project is to protect infrastructure and property.