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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!

Enjoy the Island Free Press and, even more importantly, enjoy our wonderful barrier island!!!

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The Moving Parts that are Coming Together for the Hatteras / Ocracoke Passenger Ferry

Friday 31 March 2017 at 5:43 pm

By JOY CRIST

Two meetings were held this week in Hatteras village and Ocracoke to field public questions and comments about the upcoming passenger ferry for the islands, which is slated to be up and running by 2018.

The meetings were attended by NCDOT and National Park Service (NPS) representatives and were an open house-style forum where visitors could inquire about the project, and specifically, the complementary projects that the NPS is working on to get the passenger ferry project off the ground (or rather, off the docks).

This is certainly not the first time public meetings have been held on the subject, but the project – which was first introduced around 2015 – has been gaining tremendous steam as a myriad of moving parts are coming together at a surprisingly rapid pace.

And there are certainly a lot of moving parts to consider.

The Basics

Personally, when I first heard that a passenger ferry was coming to Hatteras / Ocracoke, my initial thought was, “So what are people going to do all day when the ferry drops them off at the other end of Hatteras Inlet? Just wander around the Hatteras / Ocracoke ferry terminal? They better not all go anywhere near my shelling beach…” So, with that in mind, I’m assuming that there’s at least a couple people out there who are as slow on the uptick as I am.

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What’s New at the National Hurricane Center for 2017

Friday 24 March 2017 at 4:55 pm

By JOY CRIST

 Does it seem a little early in the year to be discussing hurricanes? You betcha.

But in early March, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) released a detailed list of changes to their “products and services” for the upcoming 2017 storm season. In other words, these are changes to the information and graphics that we all obsessively peruse on the NHC website whenever a named storm is out in the Atlantic waters.

And some of these changes are indicative of the shift that’s been occurring over the past several years from a focus on wind speed, to a focus on storm surge instead.

As everyone on Hatteras and Ocracoke Island knows, it’s the storm surge – or the flood of water that pours in like a bulldozer – that causes the most damage during a storm, and the NHC has been actively finding ways to forecast the likelihood of storm surge, and to share this information with the public.

In May of 2016, Jamie Rhome - the man who oversees the National Hurricane Center’s Storm Surge Unit and who is blazing a trail with new forecasting methods – spoke at a public meeting in Buxton to discuss the importance of storm surge when watching for potential effects of an upcoming storm.

“If you don’t take away anything else – if you want to go to sleep for the rest of the [meeting] – remember this,” said Rhome at the 2016 event. “The Saffir-Simpson scale is not the weapon of choice to determine your vulnerability... It’s storm surge that does the damage.”

With this in mind, the NHC website has added a wealth of storm surge information in the past several years, and essentially, these updates are continuing for 2017.

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A Primer on the Buxton Beach Nourishment Project

Friday 17 March 2017 at 11:11 am

By JOY CRIST

On Tuesday, March 7, a public meeting was held at the Buxton Fessenden Center on the upcoming Buxton Beach Nourishment Project that is slated to start this summer. All the major players were there – including the Board of Commissioners, the National Park Service, the leaders from Coastal Science and Engineering (CSE), and the construction firm doing the dirty work – to explain the project in detail, and to answer questions.

And there certainly was a lot of ground, or rather sand, to cover.

So in case you were unable to attend the roughly two-hour meeting, or didn’t catch some of the details from the unending stream of information and multiple power point presentations, here’s a basic primer comprised of FAQs on what’s happening, and what to expect.

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Is a return to “Paper or Plastic?” on the horizon?

Friday 10 March 2017 at 5:23 pm

By JOY CRIST

 On March 7, Rep. Beverly Boswell (R-Dare) introduced a two-page bill in the NC House of Representatives that would repeal the ban on plastic bags in certain coastal areas, including Hatteras Island.

Citing that “this prohibition impacts North Carolina businesses large and small… and hinders their ability to create jobs,” the bill would bring plastic bags back to the grocery stores, and would essentially replace the ban with a “voluntary educational program informing citizens of the availability of recycling sites throughout the entire State.”

The original ban, which was the initiative of then Senate leader Marc Basnight of Dare County, was passed in 2009, and was truly one of the first of its kind. Since it went into effect, more than 125 areas across the country have generated similar bans on plastic bags.

The nuts and bolts of the original ban from 2009 is simple enough. Retail stores in Ocracoke, Hatteras, and the coastal Outer Banks are required to use recyclable brown paper bags instead of the traditional plastic bags, and customers who bring their own reusable bags to the store are eligible for a 5 cent credit per bag.

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In Honor of Irene

Sunday 05 March 2017 at 11:52 am

By JOY CRIST

 This is the hardest thing I have ever had to write. And please bear with me because it won’t be enough.

On Friday, March 3, our beloved editor, mentor, and friend Irene Nolan passed away after a brief stay at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

I know that everyone reading this is sharing the heartbreak that all of us at Island Free Press – contributors, advertisers, and her 20-year collaborator, friend, and IFP co-founder Donna Barnett - are feeling right now.

And I wish I was a better writer and had the ability to convey how important Irene was to everyone on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.

But honestly, I can’t think of anyone who is talented enough to accurately emphasize what Irene meant to all of us, except maybe Irene herself – and she was always far too modest (and too busy) to toot her own horn.

So instead, we need to start the way Irene would want, which is by emphasizing that the Island Free Press will continue.

Irene was passionate about maintaining the IFP, continually providing the best news source possible for our islands, and ensuring that the tradition of creating an exceptional paper lived on.

She often talked about how important the Island Free Press was for Hatteras and Ocracoke – to me, and I think to everyone else, too.

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