For the second time in a little more than a year, the state has set up an emergency ferry between Hatteras Island and the mainland, after Hurricane Sandy once again left N.C. 12, the barrier island highway, impassable south of Oregon Inlet.
The ferry from Stumpy Point will make seven daily round trips to the Hatteras Island village of Rodanthe, with scheduled runs to start Wednesday for emergency and critical personnel, supplies, Hatteras Island residents and property owners, and island business employees. Visitors trapped on the islands by the hurricane will be allowed to leave, but Dare and Hyde county officials said tourists and other visitors will not be admitted to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands until further notice.
Residents of the seven Hatteras Island villages relied on the Stumpy Point ferry for six weeks last fall after Hurricane Irene punched holes in N.C. 12, and in Hatteras Island itself. Sandy did not open any new breaches in the barrier islands.
Ferry service resumed between Ocracoke Island and the mainland docks at Swan Quarter and Cedar Island on Tuesday, and the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry is expected to reopen Wednesday after sand is cleared off N.C. 12 from Ocracoke Village to the ferry dock, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Elsewhere, the damage to N.C. 12 will take longer to repair. DOT posted photos online showing several spots where the highway pavement was cracked and buckled in the S-curves and Mirlo Beach area south of the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, and other places where it was covered with tons of sand. In Rodanthe, sandbags that had been placed along N.C. 12 after Hurricane Irene last year were damaged, along with some of the pavement.
Crews used boats to examine the support columns of the aging Bonner Bridge to determine whether they had been undermined by the storm. Sandy knocked part of a guardrail off the bridge, which will remain closed as long as N.C. 12 is blocked to the south.
Farther north, in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. 12 was littered with pieces of homes, decks and driveways, and in some spots the pavement was gone. And in Kitty Hawk, a portion of U.S. 158 was still under water, and a DOT crew began pumping the water back into the ocean.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard boats and planes continued searching off Cape Hatteras for the missing captain of the sunken tall ship HMS Bounty.
The 180-foot, three-masted Bounty – a replica of the 18th century British ship – went down early Monday in stormy seas 125 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras. The Coast Guard plucked 14 members of the crew out of the ocean Monday morning and later recovered the body of crew member Claudene Christian, 42. The captain, Robin Walbridge, 63, of St. Petersburg, Fla., had not been found as of late Tuesday.
Authorities blamed Sandy for the death Monday evening of a driver killed when his car struck a downed tree in Surry County, northwest of Winston-Salem.
More than 4,200 homes and businesses across North Carolina were without electric power for a time Tuesday, according to the state Department of Public Safety. Most were in western counties where Sandy’s remnants had combined with a winter storm to deliver an unseasonably early snowfall.
Amtrak, Greyhound and Megabus suspended most bus and train service north of Raleigh on Monday, and hundreds of flights in and out of the state’s airports were canceled for a second day Tuesday, affecting thousands of travelers, because busy airports in the northeastern United States were still closed.
Starting on Wednesday, Amtrak’s Carolinian train will resume normal service between Charlotte and Philadelphia, with stops in the Triangle, but there will be no connecting service north of Philadelphia.
Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown or twitter.com/Road_Worrier/