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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Day at the Docks, Then and Now – Remembering the Roots of a New Hatteras Village Tradition

Friday 15 September 2017 at 10:07 pm


It was one of those bone-chilling days, drizzly and gray. A stiff 20-knot wind whipped the faces of the crowd in Hatteras that had gathered at sunset at Village Marina. But everyone wore big smiles, waving and cheering as boats coming through Hatteras Harbor chugged past them.

This was a celebration – of resiliency, of community and of watermen. One year earlier, on Sept. 18 2003, Hatteras village was devastated by Hurricane Isabel. The storm slashed a 1,700-foot wide inlet through the east end of the village, cutting it off from the rest of the island for nearly two months. Watermen were the lifeline to the outside world, and they took on the role with kindness, dedication and unfailing generosity.

“We had to show that we had survived because of the watermen,” recalls Lynne Foster, one of the organizers. “They were the only suppliers – because they were able to get off the island.”

All of Hatteras Island pitched in to help the villagers, she says, but the watermen were at the front lines. Fishermen kept fish and money coming into the village, fishhouses kept operating, and charter captains and boat owners ferried people and supplies back and forth.  With the first year anniversary, Foster says, it was important for the community to celebrate not only its survival, but also its fishing village heritage.

This weekend, the Day at the Docks again honors that community spirit, as the village marks the 14th anniversary of Isabel. But the event that began as a modest gathering has taken on a life of its own, seemingly building alongside the village as it built itself back.

The first Day at the Docks in 2004 did not have that catchy alliterative name. It was called the Blessing of the Hatteras Fleet. By necessity, it was kept simple, and it wasn’t only because of the wounds from Isabel.
As the Hatteras Village Civic Association was making plans to mark the one-year anniversary of Isabel, Hurricane Alex, barely a Category 2 storm, swept through on August 3.  Residents were caught off-guard when the wind shifted to the northwest and tides surged 4 to 6 feet from Ocracoke to Buxton. Nearly 700 vehicles were lost, and high water and winds again damaged homes and businesses that had barely recovered from Isabel.  

In a column in the Sept. 2004 Island Breeze written by Irene Nolan, who edited that publication before launching the Island Free Press, she details how numerous businesses damaged in Isabel suffered more flooding in Alex: Sandy Bay Gallery, Oden’s Dock, Beach Pharmacy, among others.  A few that escaped Isabel’s wrath were slammed by Alex, such as Sea Weeds, a garden shop in Frisco.

“The week after Alex,” Nolan wrote, “owner Becky Marlin had a sign hanging on the fence of the garden shop that said, ‘Sea Weeds Garden Shop has a fine selection of plants – most of them DEAD.’”

Nolan, who died in March at age 70, was a good friend of mine, and we often rode together on the boat that transported people from Frisco to the village when the road was being repaired.  Always the consummate newswoman, Nolan, who lived in Frisco, was also a devoted member of the island community, and she was often moved by the acts of kindness, as well as the resourcefulness, she observed during the months after Isabel.

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Checking in on the Buxton Beach Renourishment Project

Friday 01 September 2017 at 9:50 pm


Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands have certainly had a number of big projects in the works lately.

There’s the new passenger ferry to Ocracoke Island, the proposed multi-use path in Hatteras village, the dredging of Hatteras Inlet and of course, the Bonner Bridge replacement – which seems to grow in scale with every trip up the beach.

But the Buxton Beach Nourishment project – yet another ongoing project that was in the spotlight this past summer – has had a number of schedule adjustments, unintended interruptions, and proposed equipment additions since it was first outlined at a March 7 public meeting.

So where are we at with the beach nourishment, and what’s happening next?

First off, the parameters of the project remain the same. The goal is to widen a stretch of beach that extends for 15,500 feet (2.94 miles), and which includes 11,000 feet of undeveloped Cape Hatteras National Seashore, just north of Buxton.

Project manager Coastal Science and Engineering (CSE) and construction firm Weeks Marine are delivering 2.6 million cubic yards of sand from a “borrow pit” that’s located 1.7 miles off the beach to complete the project. Anyone who has spent some time on the beach from Buxton to Frisco has likely spotted the large dredge vessel C.R. McCaskill stationed offshore, and anyone who has hopped over the dunes to take a peek in northern Buxton has certainly been able to notice the difference between the completed region, and the area that still needs to be tackled.

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How Has Our Island Changed? A Look at Decades of Data

Friday 25 August 2017 at 11:04 pm


Earlier in 2017, the National Park Service created a series of maps to determine how erosion has affected regions of Hatteras Island in the past 150 years or so.

Per David Hallac, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent, the creation of the maps stemmed from a conversation with local property owners in Avon, after an especially brutal winter, erosion-wise.

Lifelong locals will attest that the island shifts and moves on a regular basis. A beach that was nice and wide in the summer months can narrow to just a sliver in the winter, and then return to its wide summertime status once again the following year.

But examining the timeline of where the shoreline was 150, 50, or even just 10 years ago really puts the longer-term changes in perspective.

This is one of those cases where a picture really is worth a thousand words. You can see the map of the long-term changes in the Avon and Buxton shorelines by clicking here.

“We should have known how much the beach has changed,” said David Hallac. “But having us plot the data for ourselves, when it really sunk in, it was very surprising.”

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the map. The individual lines represent where the shoreline was at a given time period, beginning with the 1852 survey and continuing all the way to 2016 / 2017.

There are two areas in particular that immediately jump out to casual viewers.

The first region is the area in between Buxton and Avon – an area that is currently undergoing an extensive summer-long beach nourishment project. In 1852, this area was roughly three times as wide as it is now, with most of the former land mass and shoreline disappearing before 1980.

The other Area is southern Avon, which is examined in closer detail in the call-out box.

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