Tuesday, December 3, 2013

slow boat to Hatteras

Heading down to Hatteras tomorrow, but not by way of the Bonner Bridge, above, which was closed today on very short notice.  The life line to Hatteras Island has been cut once again.  Hurricane Irene breached the island in 2011, then Sandy did it again in 2012.  And now the old bridge - quite literally old as the bridge was built 50 years ago with an intended life span of 30 years - is not safe to cross.  The math is simple enough, the bridge should have been replaced 20 years ago.

According the the NC Dept. of Transportation, routine sonar scanning showed excessive scouring - sand erosion - around the bridge supports.  Which raises the question both for this bridge and future bridges:  How do you build a solid bridge on the shifting sands of the Outer Banks? 

On the island's online newspaper, The Island Free Press, I read that the closure could last anywhere from a week or two to four months.  The good news is that it is now the off-season, most of the money that comes from tourism is made between late spring and early fall.  The bad news is that a lot of people who live on Hatteras work on the upper Outer Banks - Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk - and depend on the bridge to get to their jobs, not to mention medical care, shopping, etc.  

In the meantime, relief ferries are being put in service from the village of Rodanthe on Hatteras to Stumpy Point on the mainland, the same sort of relief ferry we took back after Hurricane Sandy.  It is a two hour crossing, dropping the cars off about an hour away from the upper Outer Banks. What was once a 45 minute or hour long drive is now a three hour journey.  It could be a long winter on Hatteras. Let's hope the closure is for a matter of days, not months.


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