While much of North Carolina digs its way out of inches of snow and ice, the coast is busy shoveling sand off its roads as the winter storm that paralyzed much of the swamps roads with seawater, whips up winds to near-hurricane strength and sends in swathes of snowy sea foam.
Water levels began to rise significantly on Sunday, with water 4 feet above normal in North Harlowe in Craven County near Clubfoot Creek and nearly 4 feet above normal near Back Creek in Merrimon in Carteret County, the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead reported.
At the Avalon Pier, fluffy white stuff flooded the beach Monday, piling up 2-feet thick, according to one Facebook post. But it’s not snow.
A deep layer of puffy sea foam piled up right to the front door of the Avalon Pier, according to a video posted by the pier on Facebook. Bits of the foam flew through the air in the gusty wind like huge salty snowflakes and the mass of foam on the ground jiggled like jelly as the wind rippled it.
Sea foam is created when ocean water is agitated, and the rough surf caused by the winter storm formed huge swathes of sea foam in Kill Devil Hills, the video shows.
“This ‘snow’ is hard to shove!,” the pier’s Facebook post read.
“Storm-force winds” were expected to create extremely dangerous ocean and river conditions on the coast through Monday, with flooding and beach erosion, “especially North of Cape Lookout,” according to the National Weather Service’s Newport/Morehead office, along with potential power outages on the coast.
Coastal flood warnings were issued for the Outer Banks, Carteret, Craven, Dare and Pamlico counties on Sunday as the winter storm moved into the area, with predictions for up to 4 feet of flooding above the ground on the ocean side of the Outer Banks and high surf expected to cause beach erosion.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation tweeted on Monday that N.C. Highway 12 on Ocracoke Island from Pony Pens to Ferry Dock was shut down after a dune was breached by ocean overwash that flooded the road with sand and seawater.
Other parts of the coastal highway also were flooded but had not been entirely shut down as of Monday afternoon. Water washed over parts of N.C. 12 near the Pea Island Visitor Center and sand covered the road.
Video posted on Twitter by Sam Walker, news director for The Outer Banks Voice, shows DOT using a bulldozer to move sand off the road in Kitty Hawk.
“If you have to drive along NC12 today, please drive with extreme caution and slow down,” DOT tweeted.
The National Weather Service’s Newport/Morehead office showed that areas of the coast received about 2 to more than 4 inches of rain in 48 hours as of Monday afternoon.
Wind gusts from 55 to 70 mph were whipping along the coast, according to the weather service, with sustained winds of 50 mph “lasting several hours.”
Wind gusts of 70 mph are equivalent to a strong tropical storm, nearing a Category 1 hurricane. A hurricane meets category 1 requirements when its winds reach 74 mph, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale.
While the precipitation from the storm fell on the coast as rain, temperatures were expected to drop Monday night, freezing water on roads from rain or flooding into dangerous black ice, the weather service said.
The weather service reported waves as high as 17 feet off the coast near Diamond Shoals and the Point on Sunday.