Irene re-routes Highway 12 in Cape Hatteras National Seashore in epic washover

For those who may have never visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina, it’s hard to understand just how fragile an ecosystem it is. In many sections of Highway 12, the island chain is joined by a strip of sand and asphalt that divides the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound by only a couple of hundred yards.

Over the years, even outside of Hurricane Season, ocean washovers have become relatively common. Normally, the only solution needed is a couple of dry days and some patching by the highway department.

Hurricane Irene, however, was far from routine. Her swell pushed the ocean over the road like few blowers have in the last 30 or so years. The National Scenic Highway is destroyed, cutting off a couple of thousand folks who managed to tolerate Irene’s weekend stay. The 900-foot section of crumbled, disintegrated roadway wouldn’t let a monster truck pass. In short, it’s a mess.

Turns out Irene wasn’t as harmless as most thought.

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