Frightened campers trapped on Hatteras Island as flooding, winds close highway

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It’s been a scary scene in parts of the Outer Banks these past few days. Extreme high tides and flooding shut down transportation, trapping a number of campers who were on Hatteras Island.

Images from the flooding show waves crashing against homes, vehicles pushing through floodwaters and even a toppled dune. Ferries were canceled due to high winds, and Highway 12, the only north-south route on the Outer Banks, was closed due to hazardous flooding and sand washed onto the roadway.

With the road closed, one family recalls the scary experience of being stranded on the island – surrounded by conditions that have the same effect as a hurricane or a Nor-easter.

“Saturday, they called me kind of freaked out because of all the wind,” said Amy Morris, whose children and grandchildren were trapped. “The little cabin they’re in, they are on stilts to raise them up, so they could feel it rocking.”

The timing of the storm system hit alongside a “king tide,” which happens when the earth, sun and moon are in a specific alignment, causing a higher-than-usual tide. In this case, the combination of the king tide and storm system caused record-breaking tides, with NWS Wilmington saying it threatened to “reach hurricane levels of inundation.”

At first, Morris wasn’t too worried, but then she started watching news accounts of what was happening in the Outer Banks.

“I’d never even heard of a king tide until today, and they were telling me about it,” she said. “It wasn’t 10 minutes later I heard it on WRAL and thought, ‘Oh my gosh!'” she said.

Dune collapses, roads and ferries close as flooding, high winds impact NC coast

In coastal cities, floodwaters could be seen crashing through residential and commercial areas. With the conditions deteriorating, just their supplies, her family did what they could to stay safe.

“When they called, you could hear the wind, just over the phone you could hear it,” said Morris. “I could tell by their voices, and I could tell they were starting to get pretty nervous.”

At last, conditions improved enough for Highway 12 to reopen. Morris’ daughters, grandchildren and family packed up to head home. Everyone is safe, but they’ve said this is one camping trip they won’t soon forget.