The only highway connecting the fragile barrier islands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks was closed just before 7 a.m. Friday as rough surf tore through dunes and washed across travel lanes.
Department of Transportation officials tweeted they were closing N.C. 12 after travel became increasingly dangerous during high tide.
“We have moderate to severe ocean overwash in several places along NC 12 between the Basnight Bridge and Rodanthe,” NCDOT said just after 8 a.m. “As a safety precaution, we are closing that entire stretch of road until conditions improve....Unfortunately, more of the same is expected over the next few high tide cycles.”
Reports on social media said some vehicles had become stuck in the area of the highway known as “the S curve” after being hit by waves.
Kyle Barniak, who lives on Hatteras Island, reported “ocean water running south on N.C. 12, about a half mile from where the dune is breached.” Stalled cars were also scattered about, after being hit by waves, he said.
Ocean overwash was also causing flooding in Avon’s Kennakett Shores area and the northern part of Buxton, OBX Today reported Friday morning.
Photos and videos posted on Facebook showed large gashes in the dunes and motorists dodging waves on the highway for at least a day.
State officials are predicting parts of N.C. 12 “will be impassable at times the next few days” due to a storm off the Mid-Atlantic.
Two storms merged off the East Coast Thursday and the National Hurricane Center warned “the combination of onshore winds and wave run up” would create “dangerous surf, strong rip currents, moderate to significant beach erosion and ocean overwash” into late Saturday.
The worst of the flooding and overwash will happen during times of high tide in the early morning and early evening, officials said. The National Weather Service says roads and homes near beaches “could see inundation for several high tide cycles in a row,” particularly north of Cape Hatteras.
Waves first began washing over dunes along N.C. 12 Thursday morning, covering the pavement with sand and water, state officials said on Facebook.
The flooding comes just a month after Hurricane Dorian brought devastating floods to the islands.