Dare County

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse seen from the light keepers house in Buxton. The lighthouse was put in service in 1870 and is the world's tallest brick lighthouse at 208 feet. Its beacon can be seen 20 miles out at sea.
Cliff Owen / Associated Press

The lighthouse at Cape Hatteras was first lit on Dec. 16, 1870. A century and a half later, the iconic structure – the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States – is still standing and is an active aid to navigation. It has survived heavy storms, a decommissioning, years of erosion, service during World War II, and a 23-day move in 1999.

With its 150th anniversary approaching, a celebration is in order for the lighthouse. But, because it's 2020 and the world is still dealing with the pandemic, the party is being done a bit differently.

The pandemic hasn’t halted much traffic for summer vacationers in some areas of the North Carolina coast. In June, Cape Hatteras National Seashore in Dare County saw its largest number of visitors in nearly 20 years. But even as people come from states with higher COVID numbers, Dare County’s health department has mostly been able to keep COVID under control. 

Host Dave DeWitt talks with Sheila Davies, director of the department of health and human services in Dare County, about the role of residents and visitors in combating the virus in the coastal county. We also hear about a new app that aims to help healthcare workers better understand their mental health.


County of Dare/Flickr / https://bit.ly/2O0i6Bn

New federal flood maps have reclassified thousands of properties in Dare County from high-flood risk areas to lower risk ones called "shaded X zones."

A crane lays the final girder on the Bonner Bridge replacement project.
Jamison Padgett / PCL Construction

Dare County officials are seeking suggestions for a new name for the bridge that spans the Oregon Inlet.

The current bridge is named for Herbert C. Bonner, a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina who served from 1940 until 1965. Bonner was instrumental in getting the bridge project off the ground.

Crews working at the site of the damaged transmission line
Courtesy of the NC Dot

UPDATE: Officials now estimate between six and 10 days for power to be fully restored for Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.

Governor Roy Cooper ordered a mandatory evacuation of tourists on the islands after a contractor sliced through a line carrying electricity from mainland Dare County late last week. The islands are now running on alternative backup generators, but residents are being advised to reduce their electricity consumption. 

A picture of lights on a police car.
Alejandro Mejía Greene/JubiloHaku / Flickr Creative Commons

The Dare County Sheriff's Office is encouraging visitors to the Outer Banks to know exactly where they are in case of an emergency. Cell phones sometimes share inaccurate or incomplete location data with 911 dispatch, so knowing your street address can make it easier for help to find you.

Assistant Director Lora Nock said the 911 Center handles twice as many calls in the summer months as it does in the off-season.

Lighthouse
Courtesy of Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Backers of maintaining NC 12 along the Outer Banks have a new study to bolster their case.  NC 12 has seen its share of damage as storms shift the sand.  And the price tag to fix the problem could cost millions, if not billions.

Lee Nettles is the Executive Director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.  He says the public and the legislature need to know the economic value of Hatteras Island.

Dare County brought in a record amount of occupancy taxes in 2012 while a record number of sea turtles nested on Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  Numbers from the Outer Banks Visitors' Bureau show Dare County collected $382 million in occupancy taxes through November of 2012 compared to $367 million during the same period the year before.  The county levies the tax on hotels, motels and beach houses.  At the same time, park rangers reported a record 222 sea turtle nests in 2012. 

Dare County continues to struggle with re-building and with high job loss since Hurricane Irene hit two months ago. 

The latest unemployment numbers from across the state show a majority of counties experienced a drop in their jobless rates.  But not Dare County.  In August – the unemployment rate in Dare County was 7-point-5-percent – much lower than the national and the state rate.  But in September - the jobless rate was nearly two points higher.  Kenny Kee manages the Employment Security Commission office in Nags Head.  He says people couldn’t get to work after the storm.

Dare County officials are asking residents to conserve power as utilities set up emergency generators on Hatteras Island. Parts of the main highway on the Outer Banks were washed away in four spots near Rodanthe. That left residents who waited out the storm stranded on Hatteras Island. Dare County spokeswoman Cathryn Bryan says emergency crews are taking bare essentials to the hardest hit areas.