Fierce Nor’Easter Exits the Outer Banks; Hatteras Island Takes the Brunt

Waves top the railing at Jennette's Pier on Sunday 11/17.
Waves top the railing at Jennette’s Pier on Sunday 11/17.

The last two days on the Outer Banks have been interesting. Sustained winds somewhere around 40 mph with gusts getting up to 55 or so, that makes for an interesting time.

What is finally moving out to sea is a classic nor’easter. The surf was running at 15’ or so, the winds were howling, probably about an inch of rain fell over the past two days. It was not a hurricane, but hurricanes do tend to move faster than nor’easters.

Here on the northern Outer Banks—north of Oregon Inlet—there hasn’t been much damage at all. A couple of very short-lived power outages. There was some ocean overwash, but was spotty and not significant.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Hatteras Island and we’re still waiting to hear from Ocracoke. Although, Ocracoke Village probably did not flood in this event—a northeast wind would not push water into Silver Lake, the beautiful natural harbor the village surrounds.

Although there was some flooding on the north end of Buxton, it’s really the roads that seem to be taking a beating. In particular, NC 12 on Hatteras Island.

Pictures have come in from the S Curves north of Rodanthe and they show completely compromised dunes with water flowing across the road to Pamlico Sound. It’s difficult to be sure with out a couple of points of reference, but the location of the break in the dune looks a lot like where Hurricane Irene pushed through in 2011.

Thats the same area that NCDOT is currently constructing the Jug Handle Bridge to bypass the S Curves. A 2020 completion date for the bridge is planned.

We have not yet heard how the highway repair work on the north end of Ocracoke Island has gone. NCDOT had hoped to open the north ferry dock on Friday of this week, but that was conditioned on the road repairs being completed. It’s possible this storm has pushed those repairs back.

NC 12 is closed right now at the Marc Basnight Bridge. It will probably reopen on Monday.

The beauty and power of nature is always close at hand on the Outer Banks. Experience it in al its majesty with a stay at a Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates home.

Blackbeard Exhibit Coming to Hatteras, Flag Flies from Ferries

Blackbeard the Pirate. His death 300 years ago marked the end of the age of piracy along the southern coast of America.
Blackbeard the Pirate. His death 300 years ago marked the end of the age of piracy along the southern coast of America.

300th Anniversary of Pirate’s Death Commemorated by State

November 22, 1718—the day Blackbeard the Pirate met his just desserts as Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the British Royal Navy trapped him off Ocracoke and took his head…literally.

To commemorate the event, the NCDOT Ferry Division will be flying Blackbeard’s flag from ferries sailing to and from Ocracoke this summer.

There will also be a traveling exhibit of Queen Anne’s Revenge. The exhibit will be on the Outer Banks at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras June 2 through July 29.

Queen Anne’s Revenge was the most famous of the ships Blackbeard used, although it was not his only one. In 1718 he either ran aground or deliberately scuttled the ship and rowed ashore near Beaufort and proceeded to take advantage of Governor Eden’s offer of a King’s Pardon if he promised to never go a-pirating again.

It was a short-lived promise.

He was soon back at sea, this time with a ready market for his good in the poverty stricken colony of North Carolina. Although nothing was ever proven in a court of law, most scholars of history feel Governor Eden and other members of his administration either pointedly turned a blind eye to his activity or directly profited from it.

Under any circumstances it seems apparent the Secretary of the State, Tobias Knight was working directly with Blackbeard. When Lt. Maynard killed the pirate, a letter from Knight warning of the British fleet was found on him.

However, tried in NC courts, Knight was found not guilty of all charges.

Maynard was dispatched by Virginia Governor Spotswood after repeated entreaties Eden to reign in Blackbeard went un answered.

After defeating Blackbeard, Maynard mounted his severed head on the bowsprit of his ship, the HMS Pearl.

Hatteras/Ocracoke Passenger Ferry Perfect for Day Trips

New Passenger only Ferry to Be in Service by Summer

With the introduction of a passenger ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke Village this summer, it looks as though the ferry division of NCDOT got things very right.

The only way on or off Ocracoke Island is by water, and for the past five years the ferry channel between Hatteras and the Ocracoke terminal has been shoaling. Two years ago, the decision was made that the main channel could no longer be effectively dredged and a new channel has been in use.

Unfortunately the new channel added time to the ferry runs and the number of trips doing peak season feel from 52 per day to 42 according to NCDOT.

The new passenger only ferry service that is being offered is a partial solution to the problem.

Ocracoke is perfect as a day trip destination and the ferry division’s newest addition is designed to take advantage of that. Docking at Silver Lake in the heart of Ocracoke Village, passengers will have a day to walk around one of the most picturesque towns of the Outer Banks.

The ferry is still undergoing tests and is not yet in service, although NCDOT has indicated it will be available by summer. A confirmed schedule has not yet been published but tentatively NCDOT is planning on four trip a day with the first leaving Hatteras at 10:00 a.m. and the last departing Ocracoke at 8:30 p.m.

There will be some restrictions on what can be taken on the ferry. Luggage and coolers are prohibited. However, there are provisions for bikes and parents of toddlers and younger can certainly bring strollers.

The ferry will seat 99 and takes 70 minutes to make the run. Unlike the vehicle ferry which is free, the passenger only ferry will have a $15 fee. Reservations are recommended.

This will be a passenger, day use ferry. There is parking available at the Hatteras Ferry Terminal, but overnight parking is prohibited.

We’re pretty excited about this. Ocracoke is a wonderful day trip destination, and honestly driving a a car through those narrow twisting streets is difficult and we almost always park our car and walk about anyway.

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.

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.

A Different Tradition-Rodanthe Old Christmas

Celebrating Rodanthe Old Christmas in the 1950s with Old Buck.
Celebrating Rodanthe Old Christmas in the 1950s with Old Buck.

Every place that celebrates Christmas has some kind of tradition that is their own, but when it comes to being different, it’s tough to beat Old Christmas down in the Hatteras Island village of Rodanthe.

Residents, family and offspring gather from all over the world on the first Saturday after the New Year to make merry at the Rodanthe Old Christmas. Everyone acknowledges that Christmas really does fall on December 25, but for the longest time the families that made up Rodanthe refused to go along.

A lot of traditions just seem to have sprouted up and people keep them going, but this one there is no doubt about when it began—1752.

That was the year England converted from the Julian Calendar that was almost right, to the Gregorian calendar that we use today that was remarkably right. When the change was made, everybody in the British Empire—which included Rodanthe—lost 11 days.

The decision to begin using the new calendar was greeted with considerable opposition. Some of it was religious—the Gregorian calendar is named for Pope Gregory, who developed it, and in heavily Protestant England that was unacceptable. Some was fear of change, some superstition.

But the British Parliament voted that the new calendar was the law of the land and the rest of the Empire followed suit—except for Rodanthe, where the continued to celebrate Christmas 11 days later than the rest of the world.

Rodanthe Old Christmas has become a wonderful celebration of the unique qualities of village life in an isolated area.

There are traditional foods that are prepared; there are games for kids and some for adults. Family members travel incredible distances to be on hand, which is why the celebration was moved to the first Saturday after the New Year.

The highlight is an appearance of Old Buck, a strong and—according to legend—virile bull who came ashore in a shipwreck. Old Buck, it seems, still haunts the maritime forests of Hatteras Island, reappearing only at Old Christmas.

The Rodanthe Old Christmas will take place on January 6 this year. Activities are centered around the Rodanthe Community Center.

Fall Is Music Fest Time on the OBX

Steep Canyon Rangers, headlining Thursday night at the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival.
Steep Canyon Rangers, headlining Thursday night at the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival.

Fall is music festival time on the Outer Banks and there is some great entertainment lined up beginning this week with the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival at Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what to expect.

Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival

September 21-24

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. Thursday and Friday.
Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. Thursday and Friday.

Some of the biggest names in Bluegrass will be coming to the Outer Banks this week. Rhonda Vincent and the Rage will take the stage twice; look for them on Thursday afternoon and Friday evening.

Steep Canyon Rangers will also be performing on Thursday, taking the stage at 7:45. In a music style dominated by great musicians, Steep Canyon really stands out with tight arrangements and innovative sounds.

Also look for Gene Watson on Friday and the Soggy Bottom Boys on Saturday to closeout the Festival.

Hatterasity-A Bluegrass Block Party

October 8-11

Hatterasity is a Hatteras Village bluegrass happening, there’s some great local talent—but local talent in this case is Ocracoke’s Molasses Creek with a national reputation. There’s also a great jam session to kick things off on Tuesday evening—bring your instrument and sit in.

Mustang Music Festival

October 9-10

Lettuce-funk band. One of the headliners at the Mustang Music Festival.
Lettuce-funk band. One of the headliners at the Mustang Music Festival.

Promoter Mike Dianna has created one of the best music festivals around. His move two years ago to the Whalehead Club brought the festival to the perfect setting for Mike’s vision of music at all times.

The two day festival features two stages, so that when one band is playing the other is getting ready to go. No breaks between performance…one stops the next one starts.

The music is always worth the price of admission—Mike consistently manages to bring groups to the Outer Banks that are right on the cusp of going to the next level and it shows.

This is a very family friendly event with proceeds going to two great causes—the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and the Mustang Music Program that works with kids to learn how to perform music.

Duck Jazz Festival

October 11

Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo, headline the 10th Annual Duck Jazz Festival.
Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo, headline the 10th Annual Duck Jazz Festival.

The 2016 version of the festival is the 10th Annual and the lineup this year is amazing.
Headliners Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo may be the finest jazz guitarists around—certainly the people they have loved with over the years would seem to indicate that.

Their styles are smooth and expressive—a classic jazz sound.

The setting is perfect. There may not be any place better to sit outside, sip some wine and take in a free outdoor jazz concert than the Duck Town Green.