It wasn’t quite business as usual on North Carolina’s Outer Banks as Hurricane Sandy rolled north for its date with infamy earlier this week.
The string of barrier islands once again endured the pounding of waves and flooding that has become a staple of live TV remotes and viral Internet videos, with several stretches of Route 12—the sole highway link to the mainland—covered with as much as 4 feet of sand according to the NC Department of Transportation.
A view of NC 12, on North Carolina's Outer Banks, post-Sandy. (Photo by North Carolina Dept. of Transportation)
Sandy also undermined pavement in several areas, including adjacent to a temporary bridge constructed to span a new inlet created by Hurricane Irene last September. Sandbags and other protective structures at another longstanding overwash “hotspot” north of the village of Rodanthe sustained extensive damage as well.
(For an aerial look at Sandy's damage, see NCDOT's Flickr gallery.)
But unlike other recent storms, Sandy also left her mark on the half-century old Bonner Bridge across Oregon Inlet. NCDOT inspectors have found damaged bridge deck tension cables on several spans. Side-scan SONAR is also being used to determine if any excess scouring occurred.
Although design work on a new $215 million Bonner Bridge is underway, the existing structure will remain the only highway link to Hatteras Island until 2015 at the earliest.
NCDOT has determined that thou the existing structure is safe for use by emergency vehicles, expedited structural repairs are needed. For once, timing is on the agency’s side, as the Bridge cannot be re-opened to regular traffic until the roadway repairs are complete. (Road contractors are allowed to use the bridge to access work areas.) NCDOT expects the Bridge work to be completed first, though no exact schedule has been announced.
For Hatteras Island residents, property owners, and emergency support personnel and supplies, NCDOT has reactivated emergency ferry service between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe.
UPDATE 11/1/12: NCDOT estimates the road and bridge repairs "will take weeks."