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.

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.

Power of Nor’easter Tosses Container Ship Cargo to Ocean

Ocean overwash in Kitty Hawk, day three of the storm.
Ocean overwash in Kitty Hawk, day three of the storm.

Wind and Waves Damage Cargo Ship

The container ship Maersk Shanghai, bound for Charleston, SC lost 70-73 containers 17 miles off Oregon Inlet Saturday night the Coast Guard has reported. That puts into perspective just how powerful the March nor’easter that is pounding the East Coast is.

At the time the containers fell into the sea, according to a Duck Field Research Buoy in the area, seas were running at 24’, although there may have been larger waves in the area. The winds at the time were from the north at 40-50 mph.

This is not the first time a container ship has lost its cargo off the Outer Banks. In 2006 a container filled with Doritos fell overboard, much to the delight of local tortilla chip lovers. This time, however, no one knows what’s in the containers, or if they will wash up on local beaches.

Nor’easter Slowly Exiting

It’s a third day of pounding surf and some soundside flooding here on the Outer Banks. The winds have been holding steady from the NNW for the past few days—which puts us on the backside of the nor’easter. As the winds rotate around the storm center, they move from the northeast to the northwest and at some point they’ll shift to the south. Which is not forecast to happen until sometime early Tuesday morning.

Slowly but surely, and not nearly as fast as we hoping, this massive March nor’easter is moving away from the Outer Banks.

Hatteras Island seems to to have really taken a beating with flooding reported from Pamlico Sound overwash and some ocean overwash. The S Curves north of Rodanthe are impassable and vehicle traffic to Hatteras Island is not possible right now.

North of Oregon Inlet, there has been some soundside flooding, especially in Manteo and at times on Colington Road, but it has not been too bad.

After three days of steady pounding and 15’ waves we are seeing some ocean overwash. It remains to be seen how well recently nourished beaches will hold up after this first significant test.