Offshore storm could beat up fragile coastline

By on September 6, 2011

Sets of big waves were rolling in Tuesday in Nags Head. (Voice)

Hurricane Katia is forecast to pass more than 300 miles out to sea by Thursday, but swells of up to 14 feet could rough up an already fragile shoreline.

The main risk is on Hatteras Island, where Hurricane Irene tore two new inlets and severed N.C. 12.

One house has already collapsed into the surf near the inlet just north of Rodanthe at Mirlo Beach, and others are precariously close to the surf.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Maria has formed in the distant Atlantic. It is forecast to be north of the Bahamas on Monday. Modeling beyond that is not reliable, although most show the storm following Katia northeast.

Dare County Manager Bobby Outten said one concern is how a power pole in the shallower inlet at Mirlo Beach will hold up. It is carrying a transmission line south to the rest of the island.

Generators are fueled up if power should be lost again.

Katia will be off Hatteras on Thursday. (NASA)

The National Weather Service in Newport says swells will increase to 6 to 9 feet north of Oregon Inlet Wednesday and 8 to 11 feet Thursday night.

Seas will be higher south of Oregon Inlet, with swells rising to 8 to 11 feet Wednesday and 9 to 14 feet by Thursday, the weather service said.

There is also a high risk of rip currents.

Significant wind is not expected from the offshore storm, and waves on the Albemarle Sound are forecast to be 1 to 2 feet, which should not affect emergency ferry service.

After returning for a few days to resume pumping sand for Nag Head’s beach-widening project, dredges will probably be sent to safe harbor in Norfolk late Wednesday, Town Manager Cliff Ogburn said in an e-mail. They were sent there for Irene and returned late last week.

Dredges head to Norfolk if seas reach 6 to 8 feet, Ogburn said.

On Tuesday night, Hurricane Katia was 335 miles south-southwest of Bermuda and moving northwest at 10 mph. Top winds were 105 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is expected to take a sharp turn north, then northeast and sweep out to sea.

Tropical Depression 14 was in the central Atlantic with top winds of 35 mph.

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