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Hi, and welcome to my "Editor's Blog"! In this space I'll be attempting to keep our readers informed on fast-breaking news and issues affecting our islands. Visit often. There's a lot going on!

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Salvo Jimmy (Hurricanes: Our r…): Another thing to consider, and Isabel is a good example, is storm surge does not fall off like wind s…
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Circle of Stones: A success story

Friday 30 October 2015 at 4:21 pm

If you are going to be on Hatteras Island next weekend and don't already have plans, I strongly suggest that there is a really cool and fun event that you might want to attend on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.

The event is the dedication of the new Keepers of the Light Amphitheater on the grounds of the Cape Hatteras Light Station in Buxton.

The amphitheater is new, but its seating is not. Many among us will recognize the seating as the large, granite blocks, the so-called "Circle of Stones," which previously marked the original site of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the ocean beach nearby.

The 36 massive stones are carved with the names of the 83 principal and assistant keepers of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse who served at both the present tower, built in 1870, and the tower that preceded it, built in 1803.

The stones, instead of being arranged in a circle, are now laid out in three semi-circles to form the amphitheater seats and they sit in a cleared area covered with crushed stone and shells on the light station grounds.

In future years, they will be the site of various Park Service programs and presentations on the history, culture, and ecology of the lighthouse and its keepers and a place for visitors and admirers to reflect on the impressive structure.

The dedication ceremony is sponsored by the National Park Service, the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, and the Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society -- three organizations that have been instrumental in deciding the future of the circle of stones.

It's taken two and a half years to get to the dedication ceremony, but the process that got us here is a real community success story. It's a "good news" story about the National Park Service and the local community after some years during which the relationship between the two has been anything but cordial.

It's a story that could have ended quite differently and, we can hope, is another sign that the island community is again moving forward with the Park Service.

To understand what Saturday's ceremony means, you have to go back to the origin of the Circle of Stones.

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The fight to keep the ferry free

Friday 23 October 2015 at 5:13 pm

Ocracokers and Hyde County officials have been fighting to keep the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry free for several years now as the Republican-controlled General Assembly has mounted one effort after another to place a toll on the route and local legislators and other friendly lawmakers have tried to beat back the attacks.

Now, it would seem, the battle is getting underway on a new front --  at the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

For the past week or so, the director, Ed Goodwin, and deputy director, Jed Dixon, have been giving presentations on the dire state of NCDOT's Ferry Division. The word is that Goodwin has been getting pressure to move ahead and toll the Hatteras-Ocracoke route to raise needed funds to replace the aging ferry fleet.

Perhaps the pressure has been coming from his new boss, DOT Secretary Nick Tennyson, and, for sure, it's come from Malcolm Fearing of Manteo, who represents Division 1, including Dare and Hyde counties, on the state's Board of Transportation, which makes the call on such things as tolls.

The Ocracoke Observer reported last week that Hyde County manager Bill Rich told the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association at its Oct. 15 meeting that a request to toll the ferries would be made at this week's meeting of the Albemarle Regional Planning Organization, which includes Dare and Hyde and eight other counties.

“The bottom line is there is going to be a toll  for the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry whether we want it or not because the Ferry Division has to find a way to pay for new and badly needed ferries,” he told the group, according to an article in The Ocracoke Observer.

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A piece of history uncovered by shifting sands...WITH SLIDE SHOW

Friday 16 October 2015 at 4:52 pm

There's a new attraction on the beach these days a half-mile south of Ramp 55 in Hatteras village -- well, a sort of new attraction.

A very large piece of a shipwreck, which is periodically uncovered by shifting sands, is visible again after two weeks of stormy weather at the end of September and earlier this month.

Many people have probably seen it before -- or at least part of it.  From time to time, a storm uncovers it, and sometimes stormy weather or just persistent wind uncovers just a few of its old timbers.

No one is sure how long it has been there or what doomed ship sailing offshore and passing the shifting shoals known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic it came from.

Fittingly, it is located just across the dunes from the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, a state-owned facility that is dedicated to the preservation, advancement and presentation of the maritime history and shipwrecks of the North Carolina Outer Banks from the earliest periods of exploration and colonization to the present day.

In 2006, the museum sponsored a summer archaeology workshop for high school students, whose project it was to uncover and analyze the shipwreck and try to identify it.

After the workshop ended, the plan was for the National Park Service to use its heavy equipment to move the big piece of shipwreck to the museum grounds, so that the visiting public could view it.

However, the shipwreck turned out to be too heavy to lift.

"It was decided that, since it could not be moved, the best way to preserve the ship was to rebury it and allow the island to claim it once again," the Park Service said in a news release from July 24, 2006.

"Shipwreck laid to rest," was the headline on the news release.

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Reflections on two weeks of wicked weather

Friday 09 October 2015 at 4:56 pm

Early in the last week of September, it began to look as if a coastal storm was brewing for the last weekend of the month.

That made me more anxious than usual.  Coastal storms are not usually life-threatening, but they sure can be a nuisance with high winds, pounding waves, and ocean overwash. In addition, we had already had a good bit of northeast winds during the month to get the ocean riled up and really didn't need more.

On Tuesday morning of that week, Sept. 22, I reluctantly wrote a news story for The Island Free Press to say that the National Weather Service had issued a high surf advisory for the Outer Banks, north of Cape Hatteras.  Not good news. And I say "reluctantly" because I always hate posting that first storm story since it usually means more days of coverage -- and stormy weather -- to come.

It had started raining on Monday that week, and it rained just about every day -- drizzly, wind-blown rain. The wind blew harder each day.  Ferries ran only intermittently to Ocracoke.

Next came the coastal flood advisory on Thursday.

I was really feeling badly for our visitors who had been so looking forward to their vacations.  The week was quickly becoming a washout.

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