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.

High Speed Passenger Service Comes to Ocracoke

The Ocracoke Express, aka Martha's Vineyard Express waiting for passengers.
The Ocracoke Express, aka Martha’s Vineyard Express waiting for passengers.

They danced a jig and jumped through some hoops, but somehow the Ferry Division of NCDOT managed to get a high speed passenger ferry for the Hatteras/Ocracoke run.

When construction began on the Ocracoke Express at US Boatworks in Swansboro in 2017 service was supposed to begin last summer, then in the fall, then this summer. Construction delays and the failure to pass Coast Guard welding standards have pushed the launch of the 98 passenger catamaran back to fall of this year.

But NCDOT had promised there would be a high speed passenger ferry this year and they’ve delivered, leasing the Martha’s Vineyard Express from Seastreak, a company that operates ferry service in a number of northeastern states.

 The Martha’s Vineyard has been renamed the Ocracoke Express for the summer.

The high speed service is great news. Ocracoke is one of our favorite places to visit for a day trip, but when shoaling at Hatteras Inlet forced ferries to take a longer route between Hatteras and Ocracoke, long lines at the docks waiting to board the ferries have become frequent. 

The old water route to Ocracoke was a 40 minute ferry ride. The new route is an hour, forcing NCDOT to schedule fewer runs to the island that is only accessible by boat.

The new route is a 70 minute run, but the ferry docks at Silver Lake. Ocracoke Village surrounds the bay.

Ocracoke is part of Hyde County and the county is providing a free tram service to the outlying areas of the village, including the ever-popular Howard’s Pub.

Right now there are three runs daily—leaving Hatteras at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and departing Ocracoke at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The Outer Banks is filled with hidden treasures. Reserve your Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates home and begin your journey of discovery.

SELC Sues to Stop Mid Currituck Bridge

Proposed route of the Mid Currituck Bridge.
Proposed route of the Mid Currituck Bridge.

In a move that is probably a surprise to no one who is following the events, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) is suing NCDOT to stop construction of the $500 Mid Currituck Bridge.

The SELC has been opposed to the bridge since it was first formally proposed in the late 1990s. The span will connect Aydlett on the Currituck mainland to Corolla, bypassing the troubled intersection of US 158 and NC 12 in Kitty Hawk. Highway planners see the bridge as the best option to alleviate the traffic jams that have plagued weekend traffic in the summer for years.

With the announcement in March of a Record of Decision approved by the Federal highway Administration, the the Mid Currituck Bridge moved closer than it ever has to reality. The Record of Decision is the final step before construction bids are let.

 According to the SELC they are representing a number of groups and organizations including the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, hunters, fishermen. A local group NoMCD, is also opposed to the bridge, although it is unclear if they are part of the suit.

The case was filed on April 23 in in the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The SELC maintains the bridge is an expensive and unnecessary project that will significantly damage to the environment. The suit alleges NCDOT failed to hold any public hearings on the Environmental Impact Statement since 2012.

The current Environmental Impact Statement is based on a 2012 EIS that was issued just before a planned ROD. NCDOT did solicit public input for the updated EIS, although there were no public hearings.

The bridge will be toll bridge. Although highway engineers believe it will alleviate traffic congestion it main purpose is to bring hurricane evacuation into compliance with state standards.

Sp[ring is here and it is spectacular on the Outer Banks. Plan your visit now with Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates.

Record of Decision Moves Mid Currituck Bridge Project Forward

NCOT map showing Mid Currituck Bridge location associated road projects.
NCOT map showing Mid Currituck Bridge location associated road projects.

Maybe, just maybe the Mid Currituck Bridge will be built.

On Friday the Federal Highway Administration approved the project’s Record of Decision. With the federal government’s approval in hand, the long-awaited bridge connecting the Currituck Banks with the mainland has just gotten a huge boost.

Record of Decision & What It Means

A Record of Decision outlines how the project is going to be built and is required before construction can be put out to bid.

That the Federal Government agrees with the assessment to NCDOT and the North Carolina Turnpike Commission that the bridge is necessary will go a long way to moving the process forward.

When completed, the bridge will subtract 40 miles from the ride to Corolla for vacationers and workers who use the Wright Memorial Bridge. More importantly, it should bring hurricane evacuation time from the Currituck Banks to less than 18 hours. Eighteen hours is the maximum time to evacuate an area that will meet state standards.

The total cost of the project is approximately $440 million. The state believes, however, that told will offset the cost of the bridge. Government grants and bonds, some of them to be paid through toll collections, will further reduce the state’s outlay. Estimates are that NCDOT will be responsible for $173 million.

The bridge will be located at Aydlett on the mainland side and will connect with Corolla very close to the TimBuckII Shopping Plaza on the Outer Banks side.

NCDOT has not indicated a specific timetable at this point in time, but if other published schedules for construction of the bridge hold true, the Mid Currituck Bridge should open to traffic sometime in 2022. Provided all goes smoothly.

There is a six month comment period for a ROD.

There is always something interesting happening on the Outer Banks. Check out the Outer Banks Taste of the Beach and more from the comfort of a Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates home.

New Oregon Inlet Bridge Opens-Bonner Bridge Officially Closed

Wider, stronger and better constructed, the replacement for the Bonner Bridge is now open. Photo NCDOT
Wider, stronger and better constructed, the replacement for the Bonner Bridge is now open. Photo NCDOT

Suddenly the new Oregon Inlet bridge is open. No announcement, no huge fanfare, just a quick notice press release from NCDOT with a headline reading: “New Bridge Over Oregon Inlet Opens to Traffic” on Monday.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Sure there is an official ribbon cutting scheduled for April 2, but that will probably be a bit anticlimactic. The truth is, crossing that new bridge, with it’s wider lanes and 8’ shoulders designed for bicyclists, well that’s a thrill in itself.

It has been long time coming. The original Bonner Bridge was only supposed to have a 30 year lifespan. But 1993 came and went. Then 2003 and 2013 and still the bridge was there—aging and not always gracefully.

We had a chance to walk across the new bridge a couple of weeks ago, and looking down on the Bonner Bridge the pitting of the concrete cause by the power of salt driven winds was apparent.

And then there was the time a couple of years ago that divers discovered the force of the current through Oregon Inlet and scoured the sand and dirt completely away from some of the pilings supporting the bridge. In short, the pilings were attached to nothing but water. 

Unlike the Bonner Bridge, this span is designed with a 100 year lifespan in mind. New materials that were not available in 1963 were used. Building techniques and engineering concepts unheard of 56 tears ago were integrated into the design. 

And they’re not taking any chances not eh piling floating free. The pilings supporting the main spans were driven 100’ into the sand and mud beneath Oregon Inlet’s waters.

Over time, crossing the bridge will, of course, become mundane, something we do everyday. But for right now? Wow, is it exciting.

Lots of great events are coming up in March. Come stay with Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates for a while.

Walkers, Bikers Cross Bonner Bridge Replacement

Looking down at the Oregon Inlet channel through the Bonner Bridge from the replacement span.
Looking down at the Oregon Inlet channel through the Bonner Bridge from the replacement span.

Cold, windy and spectacular. There is no other way to describe what it was like to walk across Oregon Inlet on the replacement span for the Bonner Bridge.

NCDOT has not opened the new bridge yet to traffic. They have indicated that is coming later this month, but on Saturday they opened the bridge to foot and bike traffic. It’s probably somewhat of a one-off type of thing, but it was worth every step of the journey.

The View from the Top

The view is spectacular…in every direction. A bit dizzying looking down though. But that also gives a good feel for just how large this new bridge is. 

It’s doubtful that anyone ever thought of the Bonner Bridge as small, but looking down on it, it looks like something built out of a toy erector set. With the blocks and pieces of it showing what years of exposure to salt air, wind and Oregon Inlet currents has done.

When the Bonner Bridge was completed in 1964 it was designed to have a 30 year lifespan. Somehow it has managed to survive 55 years of use—thanks in large part to a Herculean effort from NCDOT.

This new bridge has a design life of 100 years. There are a number of design features that have gone into it that were not even available in 1963-1964 when the original span was being built. There are also material in use that were not available 50 years ago.

At the highest point looking down and seeing how narrow the passage through the Bonner is for boat traffic, helps to underscore some of the more remarkable features of this new bridge. It will have, as an example, nine arches that will allow boat traffic. That will help maintain a constantly shifting channel. The arches are also farther apart.

For the bike riders, there are going and coming bike paths. In theory, they could be multi-use paths, but since the sign says share the road with an image of a bicycle, that’s probably what they were designed for.

So…yes, cold, windy but worth it. Excited now for the grand opening of the bridge.

Have you booked your summer vacation home? Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates has the finest homes in the best locations.

Kitty Hawk Begins Building Moor Shore Road Living Shore Line

Although unfinished the Moor Shore Road living shoreline is already at work. Waves strike the sills, calming the waters behind them.
Although unfinished the Moor Shore Road living shoreline is already at work. Waves strike the sills, calming the waters behind them.

After almost two years of getting the permits and making sure funding was in place, at long last a living shoreline project is moving forward along Moor Shore Road in Kitty Hawk.

Moor Shore Road is sort of a forgotten street, a short strip of pavement that off Kitty Hawk Road that runs past some of the oldest properties in Kitty Hawk, parallels the bay for short but beautiful time before intersecting with Beacon Drive and ending.

At one time, though, it was an important road. Clearly seen on USGS maps dating back more than 100 years, it is the way the Wright Brothers got from Bill Tate’s Kitty Hawk home to their Kill Devil Hills camp.

Although largely forgotten, it is still an important road. When traffic or weather closes US158, the Bypass around the Kitty Hawk Post Office, it is the emergency route for traffic. It’s also one of the legs of the Outer Banks Marathon.

Increasingly over the past five or six years, the road floods during strong, sustained southwest winds. The reason is apparent—the beach and marsh that once protected the road have disappeared.

About two years ago, the North Carolina Coastal Federation, at the request of Kitty Hawk citizens, began looking into whether a living shoreline would be effective in protecting the road.

Apparently, yes it will and with multi-multi-agency funding the project is now underway.

The primary sound of funds for the project was a NOAA grant. The Town of Kitty Hawk has also guaranteed over $150,000, although those funds will only be spent if there is a shortfall. Perhaps most significantly NCDOT is also part of the project. 

According to a spokesperson for the NCDOT, this is the first time the agency has used a living shoreline as a means of protecting a road, and much of the delay in moving the project forward was allowing the state agency time to cross all their “Ts” and dot all their “Is” in figuring out how to include in their arsenal of shoreline protection.

Living shorelines have become the preferred method of shoreline protecting. Using sills that are offset from one another, the energy of waves as they come ashore are dissipated. The waters behind the sills are calmer, allowing native seagrass and reeds to regrow, offering further shoreline protection.

The first phase is almost complete with of the sills in place. Phase two will have volunteers planting grasses on the shoreside of the sills this spring.

There is always something happening on the Outer Banks. Plan your stay with Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates and discover how wonderful life can be.

New Bonner Bridge Opening Delayed by Weather

Although structurally complete, there is still work to be done on the Bonner Bridge before its early 2019 opening.
Although structurally complete, there is still work to be done on the Bonner Bridge before its early 2019 opening.

Fall Storms Create Construction Delays

The ribbon cutting for the new Bonner Bridge that spans Oregon Inlet has been moved back to sometime in January or February next year. NCDOT had hoped to get the replacement span for the aging bridge opened by the end of this year, but a series of storm event have delayed the final touches for completing the bridge.

Structurally the new span is completed. However, there is ongoing work to finish guardrails, remove construction equipment and minor work that goes into finishing any major project.

When the bridge does open, at first it may only be for one way traffic at a time, according to a statement from NCDOT. What will probably happen is initially traffic in one direction will use the new bridge, but the old bridge will be used for vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.

That strategy would allow the new span to be opened a little earlier, enabling the last minute steps needed to complete the bridge to be done in stages.

Groundbreaking for the new Bonner Bridge was in March of 2016, and at that time, NCDOT had hoped to have the bridge open for traffic by late fall of this year. Although they have missed that target date, for the most part, bridge construction has remained on schedule.

After the new span is completely open, work will begin on demolishing the old bridge. There will be a 1000’ fishing and observation pier left on the south or Hatteras Island side.

Demolition should be completed but the end of 2019.

The material removed during demolition will be taken to a site, cleaned and then taken to sea and used to create or expand three reefs off the Outer Banks coast.

There’s always something new and interesting happening on the Outer Banks. Book you home today at Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates and experience the best of life on a sandbar.

Goodbye to Hurricane Florence, Outer Banks Welcomes Our Visitors

Dimitri Maramenides of Epic Kiteboarding  at Jennette's Pier on Friday. Although the Atlantic Ocean was extremely rough, there was no reported damage along the northern Outer Banks.
Dimitri Maramenides of Epic Kiteboarding at Jennette’s Pier on Friday. Although the Atlantic Ocean was extremely rough, there was no reported damage along the northern Outer Banks.

All Travel Restriction Lifted for Outer Banks

Hurricane Florence stayed well to the south of the Outer Banks and as of Sunday, all evacuation notices and travel restrictions pertaining to northern Dare and Currituck Counties have been lifted.

NCDOT is working feverishly to clear the road at the S Curves just north of Rodanthe and according to their latest bulletin, Hatteras Island will be open to all traffic after 3:00 p.m. Sunday.

The Ocracoke ferries are not running and at this point in time there is no access to Ocracoke.

For all the inconvenience Florence caused on the Outer Banks, the fact is, we got off with little or no damage—in stark contrast to our neighbors south of the Outer Banks and along the eastern shore of the Pamlico Sound.

There was a little bit of ocean overwash and no one lost power. It rained very hard on Thursday, and we have had intermittent squalls coming off the ocean for the past two days, but nothing at all like Wilmington and surrounding areas are experiencing with 30”-40” of rain.

It feels good to be open again and welcoming visitors. It is, after all, what we do on the Outer Banks, and we do it very well.

Our calendar is filled with things to do this week.

It looks as though the ESA Easterns Surf Championship will happen, although the first day will be Tuesday instead of Sunday. It may still be a challenge for some of the competitors from the south to get here, but we’ll hope for the best.

Surfalorous is also happening this coming week. The surf film festival sponsored by the Dare County Arts Council will run Thursday through Saturday at various locations.

If we have one really fun event to attend, it would have to be CrabDaddy at the Cotton Gin in Jarvisburg. It’s a combination celebration of the Sanctuary Vineyards harvest, local catch—with an emphasis on crab, and music.

It’s always a fun afternoon and great for the family.

See for yourself what we mean when we say the Outer Banks is a welcoming place. Check out our listings at Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates.

Last Girder Placed in Bonner Bridge Replacement Span

The last girder is place in the replacement span of the Bonner Bridge. Photo, WUNC
The last girder is place in the replacement span of the Bonner Bridge. Photo, WUNC

NCDOT Predicts a December Opening

Fifteen years after its expected lifespan, the Bonner Bridge is finally about to be replaced. They placed final connecting girder on the replacement project last week and if all goes a hoped, NCDOT is planning on a December ribbon cutting for the new bridge.

The original Bonner Bridge connecting the northern Outer Banks with Hatteras island had an expected life expectancy of 40 years. Completed in 1963, the expectation was that a new bridge would be in place by 2003. But a series of vigorous environmental lawsuits—and a an originally preferred alternative that was cost prohibitive and would have made Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge virtually inaccessible—held up construction for move than a decade.

The end result is truly spectacular, towering over the original bridge, it is an engineering marvel.

The replacement bridge is only 20’, but it is so massive it seems much bigger. Whereas the current Bonner Bridge has one navigation span, the new bridge will have seven, all of them wider than the original.

But what really seems to set this project apart is the application of the science of how to build a bridge in an environment as harsh and demanding as Oregon Inlet.

To control corrosion, the rebar that is being used in the concrete girders and pilings is stainless steel, and it is the first bridge built in North Carolina that uses the material.

The pilings that have to take the greatest weight have been pounded 100’ into the seabed of Oregon Inlet. The pilings are also at a slight angle, allowing them to handle more weight. There are other innovative design techniques as well, including material that creates a stronger but lighter concrete for the girders.

The end result is a replacement span that is expected to have a 100 year lifespan.

After completing the new Bonner Bridge the old one will have to be demolished, a project that will take almost a year. Plans call for 1000’ feet on the Hatteras Island side to be retained as a fishing pier. Much of the remaining material will be cleaned and used to create fishing reefs.

The Bonner Bridge is the most visible—and arguably important—part of the project, but NCDOT has always seen NC12 from Oregon Inlet to Rodanthe as a project area.

The first bridge completed was the Richard Etheridge Bridge at New Inlet. The next bridge that will be the “Jug Handle” bypassing the S Curves north of Rodanthe.

So named because it forms a jug handle as it swings through Pamlico Sound, NCDOT expect the project to be completed in fall of 2020.

Fall is a great time to visit the Outer Banks. Check out our Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates listing and see what’s available.