Outer Banks

Black Tip sharks feed on the coast near Cape Lookout.
Shark Attack News

A series of videos and photos show masses of sharks on the North Carolina shoreline. Two videos posted online this week show what appear to be blacktip and/or spinner sharks in a feeding frenzy near Cape Lookout.

The sharks are further ashore than usual, feeding in just a few inches of water.

Nancy Fish, with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said it's a migratory season for fish, which can lead to shark activity closer to shore.

Jennette's Pier
Dave DeWitt

Whether it’s in the mountains or off the coast, North Carolina has plenty of wind. It also has a lot of land, suitable ports, and infrastructure to become a major player in the industry along the east coast.

But that hasn’t happened.

Beaufort, NC
3.26 via Creative Commons/Flickr

Courtesy of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, here are eight ideas for the long weekend:

NCDOT

A new, longer ferry route between Hatteras and Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks is now permanent. 

Officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the North Carolina Department of Transportation made the announcement Monday. 

Tim Hass of the state Ferry Division says the original shorter route continues to be a problem.

Every year on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, female sea turtles return to the beaches where they were born to lay the next generation. The turtle digs a hole in the sand with her back flippers, lays her eggs, covers the nest and heads back into the ocean.

This summer, researchers report finding a healthy number of sea turtle nests — a good thing, since they are a “threatened” species.

A Dare County sheriff's deputy walks down damaged Route 12 after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
Steve Earley / Virginian-Pilot/AP

A new report from NationalGeographic.com begins this way: "Development and climate change are causing the islands to slowly vanish, scientists say."

A picture of a woman photographing a beach house on stilts.
Eric Mennel / WUNC

The panel responsible for studying sea-level rise along North Carolina's coast met Monday in New Bern. It was the first meeting under a new mandate to look at the forecast for sea-level rise for a shorter time period.

Four years ago the Coastal Resources Commission's science panel issued a dire report saying oceans could rise 39 inches by the year 2100. The state then issued a moratorium on using that prediction for policy purposes. The new guidelines for the science panel call for a 30-year prediction.

A screenshot captured Saturday at Mirlo Beach near Rodanthe shows the surf advancing on Highway 12.
NCDOT / facebook.com

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $20.3 million contract for beach re-nourishment just north of Rodanthe. The contract is going to the same Illinois dredging company that re-nourished the beach in Nags Head just before Hurricane Irene hit the area in 2011, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, of Illinois.

Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar
Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar

Hurricane Arthur is continuing its path toward North Carolina's Outer Banks. Residents on Hatteras Island are under a mandatory evacuation order. But many other residents and business operators in Dare County are taking a wait-and-see approach to the storm.   Karen Overbey is a manager at the aptly-named Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar in Kill Devil Hills.  She says the hurricane hasn't driven their customers away so far.

An aerial view of Tropical Storm Arthur.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Tropical Storm Arthur has formed off the coast of Florida, and is headed toward North Carolina. It isn't clear yet whether it will make landfall later this week.

Cyndy Holda of the Outer Banks Group of National Parks said local governments and businesses have hurricane action plans in place. However, she said, the Independence Day weekend is an inconvenient time for a storm to hit the beaches.

Loggerhead sea turtle
Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, Topsail Island

In the fall of 2012 a severely injured loggerhead sea turtle was rescued off the coast of North Carolina.

The loggerhead was brought to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Island, and then was transported to North Carolina State University School of Veterinary Medicine where a team worked on her injuries. The team named the turtle Nichols and began to figure out the extent of the damage.

Cape Hatteras Fishing Pier, August 4, 2013
Alistair Nicol / Flickr/Creative Commons

Cape Hatteras has been ranked as the sixth best beach in the nation by a leading beach expert, Dr. Stephen Leatherman ("Dr. Beach") of Florida International University.

Here's the list:

A picture of the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet.
Vbofficial / Wikipedia

A new bill introduced in the North Carolina Senate would allow the state to offer to buy or trade the federal government for the Oregon Inlet.

The Department of Interior took over ownership of the waterway in 1958. It charges the Army Corps of Engineers with dredging there -- being that it's an important access point for commercial fishermen and boat builders.

But state Representative Bill Cook said the feds rarely put up enough money to manage shoaling in the Oregon Inlet.

A vacation home on the Outer Banks after super-storm Sandy.
Don McCullough, via Flickr, Creative Commons

The group that implements rules along the North Carolina coast has decided to shrink the scope of a study on sea level rise.

The Coastal Resources Commission had been considering a  study of the effects of sea level rise over the next 100 years. At their meeting Thursday they decided to limit that study to just 30 years, along with  updates every five years.

The commission thought the study would have more weight if it were more limited.

Talkin' Tar Heel

May 8, 2014

    

For more than 20 years, researchers at North Carolina State University have collected interviews exploring the rich diversity of dialects in North Carolina. 

A picture of the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet.
Vbofficial / Wikipedia

Dredging has been suspended in the Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks.

The Army Corps of Engineers says the water is too shallow to allow the dredge access to the main channel.  Raymond Pugh owns Fin-Nagle Fishing Charters in Nags Head.  He said his boat is small enough to get through, but larger commercial fishing boats are having trouble and that's hard on the local economy.

'Sunny Side Up' A picture of  a lifeguard chair
Creative Commons

The National Parks Service is trying to keep at least a few lifeguards on the Cape Hatteras Seashore this summer.

Federal officials cut the $200,000 program that staffed three beaches seven days a week during the summer.

Now, Outer Banks Group Superintendent Barclay Trimble said he wants lifeguard service contractors to offer bids that can accommodate a tighter budget.

A preliminary flood maps show gains and reductions in base flood elevation along the coast.
NC Department of Public Safety

It would be easy to look at the newest round of floodplain maps and think that we've been wrong about the Outer Banks all this time.

For the past decade, the standard line has been that things on the coast are getting worse. Sea levels are rising; the shoreline is eroding; flooding is becoming a bigger threat. Flood risk is largely determined by a series of maps produced by the state of North Carolina. Those maps then make their way to FEMA, who administer the National Flood Insurance Program. Basically, the higher your risk, the more you pay in flood insurance.

Cape Point is south of Buxton, Map
Google

One of the most popular sections of the Cape Hatteras seashore is off limits for vehicles for the next few months. The Cape Point area south of Buxton is the migratory home to the piping plover, a nationally- recognized threatened species.

In 2011, the park service implemented a vehicle management plan that requires a 75 foot buffer zone be put up to prevent off-roaders from driving near the birds.

A picture of the Wright Borthers plane
Smoithsonian National Air and Space Museum

It's been 110 years this week since the Wright Brothers successfully got their heavier-than-air flying machine off the ground. The "aero-plane" had a number of really cool inventions.

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has built a 3D model where you can explore the plane from every angle. Writer Peter Jakab details what made the plane take off. Here's some highlights:

Bonner Bridge
jennyk325 via Flickr Creative Commons

Updated 12/4 with video from NCDOT press conference

The N.C. Department of Transportation has closed the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet on N.C. 12 along the Outer Banks today due to immediate safety concerns.

The Bonner Bridge connects Bodie and Hatteras Islands on the Outer Banks
ncdot.org

A federal judge has issued a ruling partially clearing the way for a new span to replace the Bonner Bridge along the Outer Banks

Activists represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center claim building a new bridge parallel to the existing bridge that links Hatteras Island and the mainland would harm coastal wildlife habitats. They want a longer, more costly bridge further out in Pamlico Sound.

Car loads onto the M/V Stanford White ferry  at the Stumpy Point Ferry Terminal Thursday. DOT workers and contractors successfully tested new ramps at both Stumpy Point and Rodanthe, which serves as an emergency ferry route after major storms cut road acc
NC DOT

In preparation for peak hurricane season, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has tested out two new ramps along its emergency ferry route. The ramps are located at Stumpy Point, on the mainland, and Rodanthe, on the Outer Banks, a route that would allow access to Hatteras Island if Highway 12 were damaged in a storm.

“We hope not to need these ramps anytime soon,” said NC Ferry Division Deputy Director Jed Dixon in a statement. “But if we do, the new ramps will provide the public safer and more reliable access to the emergency route that serves as a lifeline to Hatteras Island after a major storm.”

An underground railroad marker in Ohio.
HystericalMark via Flickr, Creative Commons

A little known part of Civil War history will be honored today on the Outer Banks.  A marker will honor a group of slaves who fled to the area in August, 1861 on their way north to freedom.  About 100 slaves helped Union troops load ships and build fortifications after the capture of forts Hatteras and Clark in return for food and shelter. 

NCDOT

Some eastern North Carolinians are pleased with an aspect of the new state budget proposal.  State legislators have left decisions on whether to charge tolls on some coastal ferry routes in the hands of local transportation planning boards.  

State Department of Transportation officials could only start the process to levy ferry ride charges if the planning boards sent in a written request.  Larry Summers is a town commissioner in Oriental.  Neuse and Pamlico ferries serve many who visit his town.

NCDOT

State Transportation Department officials have tapped a Mt. Airy company to make repairs to the Bonner Bridge on Highway 12.  The bridge in Dare County which crosses Oregon Inlet will have steel supports called "crutch bends" added to counteract years of sand erosion, or scour, that have weathered the structure. 

Pablo Hernandez, an engineer with the state DOT, says the last time this type of repair was done was more than 20 years ago.

Take Me to the Beach helps people find the right beach in the Outer Banks.
Inductice Ideas LTD

Have you ever visited the North Carolina coast only to have a hard time finding the right public beach access? That’s the situation that Sara Brubaker found herself in when she moved to the Outer Banks three years ago. So Brubaker got in touch with the app development company Inductive Ideas LTD to find a solution to the problem.  The result is a new smartphone app called Take Me to the Beach, a guide to Outer Banks beaches that provides information about public access, beach amenities, lifeguards, and distances from beaches to food and drink.

The Elizabeth II historical ship is a main attraction at Roanoke Island Festival Park.
NC Department of Cultural Resources

The history-themed Roanoke Island Festival Park on the Outer Banks may have an uncertain future. Two years ago, lawmakers passed a bill that stipulated the park be self-supporting by 2015. The bill called for systematic reductions in state funding to the site over the next 4 years. That gradual implementation was overlooked in the budget proposal Governor Pat McCrory submitted this year - and instead slashed all funding. So far this session, the general assembly shows no signs of reinstating it.

A scene from a Lost Colony performance.
The Lost Colony

The North Carolina outdoor drama The Lost Colony has been tapped for a 2013 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre.  With 75 seasons under its belt, the yearly production on Roanoke Island began in the summer of 1937 and has continued almost every year since. It is the longest-running symphonic drama in the country. This video shows clips from the play:

Bodie Island Lighthouse
National Park Service

For the first time ever, the Bodie Island Lighthouse will be open for public tours.  The structure was built in 1872 and has been closed for a $5 million renovation for the past four years. Years of exposure to harsh weather had brought on structural and safety problems. Restoration work included repairs to the spiral stairs, brickwork and the lens that still serves as a navigational guide for ships.

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