HARKERS ISLAND — Mother Nature is doing her best to repair North Core Banks, closing many of the numerous small inlets Hurricane Dorian cut through the low-lying land as it moved along the coast in early September.
Cape Lookout National Seashore Superintendent Jeff West said Monday enough inlets have closed through natural processes that there is now one 13-mile continuous stretch of unbroken beach on the ocean side of Portsmouth Island.
Immediately after Dorian, Carteret County Shore Protection Office Manager Greg Rudolph said Monday, there “probably wasn’t a 1-mile continuous stretch” of beach, as Dorian had cut more than 50 new inlets through North Core Banks, including Portsmouth. It was, he said in October, unprecedented in recent history.
The unbroken stretch, according to Mr. West, now runs along the ocean from Old Drum Inlet to about mile marker six on the north.
But while the ocean side is improving, Mr. West said, the sound side is a different story.
“We still have quite a few huge ponds along the sound side, where we used to have a back road,” he said. “And there are still three major inlets through the island between mile marker six and marker 1.5-ish.”
One, at about mile marker six, is still deep and impassable.
Still, Mr. West said, it’s good to see Portsmouth recovering.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the winter,” he said, referring to the ever-present possibility of nor’easters that could cause more problems.
Mr. West said Morris Marina Ferry Service in Atlantic has already shut down service to Portsmouth for the winter, and while people can still get there on private boats, there’s been relatively little pedestrian traffic and the island will be closed to motor vehicles from Friday, Jan. 31 to Friday, March 13.
“It’s a pretty quiet time,” he said, and that’s a good thing, because the less activity there is, the more the natural processes can proceed.
It’s looking good for surf fishermen and campers this year when spring weather starts drawing more people, he said.
Mr. Rudolph, in an interview in October, predicted that although all the tiny inlets Dorian cut through Portsmouth could close, one or two large ones might remain for some time.
He called the inlets “outlets,” since they are a normal occurrence when water backed up by a major storm needs to get back out to the ocean after filling up inland water bodies, such as Pamlico Sound.
Water follows the ground gradient, he said Monday, and flows from high elevations to the lowest elevation, the ocean, creating the velocity that cuts through the sand. Now that water-flow velocity is back to normal most of the time, fill-in takes place.
“It’s just what barrier islands do,” Mr. Rudolph. “Let’s hope it continues.”
Meanwhile, the park’s website states that beginning Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 10 a.m., reservations can be made for Great Island Cabin Camp. There is no timetable for reopening Long Point cabins.
To make reservations for Great Island, call 877-444-6777.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.