Waves 'as big as any hurricane' wash out NC 12

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— Outer Banks residents, business owners and visitors were limited in their travel once again Monday after Mother Nature swept sand and water over N.C. Highway 12.

Waves whipped up by Hurricane Teddy brought serious flooding to the Outer Banks over the weekend, and closing N.C. 12 in two places.

“I think it’s very hard for people to get their head around the fact that this wasn’t a direct hit, but it was a big storm,” said Jan Dawson, manager of the Hatteras Motel. “It takes days for those swells to start rolling in.”

The Outer Banks’ main north-south thoroughfare was closed at the between the Marc Basnight Bridge and Rodanthe on Hatteras Island and between the National Park Service Pony Pens and the ferry terminal on Ocracoke Island while crews worked to clear the road and to rebuild the protective dunes.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation called it “a triple whammy” of seasonal high tides, strong northeast winds, and long-form waves created by Hurricane Teddy that sent the surf surging across the road.

Crews are hoping to reopen the highway in both locations sometime Tuesday afternoon.

Photographer Donny Bowers spent the day driving around to capture the conditions. He said the surf was a rough as any to hit the islands and that many vehicles were stranded, flooded and totaled.

“There are tons of cars that have been totaled,” he said. “People were trying to leave and then got stuck, or people who left them under their houses on the oceanfront, several of them were lost there.”

At the Hatteras Motel, Dawson said most guests cleared out late last week when Teddy was in the forecast.

At high tide on Monday, Dawson saw seawater and sand overtake her parking lot, burying Highway 12.

“We expect this to be the worst we’ve seen thus far,” she said.

The water completely covered what should be beach – instead, Dawson saw a lot of froth, pounding on the motel pilings.

“It’s unbelievable looking at the ocean. It’s hard from the video to really get a sense of scale of the waves. They’re big,” she said. “They’re about as big as I’ve seen from any hurricane.”

The Diamond Shoals Buoy, about 17 miles off Cape Hatteras, recorded a wave nearly 18 feet high around 1:40 a.m. Monday.  

On Monday, only three rooms were occupied at Hatteras Motel, but Dawson was expecting a full house again by Friday. The few clouds in the forecast won’t dim the Outer Banks outlook, and temperatures in the upper 70s are sure to be a draw.