Although large chunks of debris have been cleared, cleanup efforts will continue for weeks after homes collapse

Large pieces of debris were collected from the parking areas near the VHR 23 ramp for removal. Photo by Joy Christ.

Although there has been significant progress over the past two weeks in clearing major debris from the two mid-May house collapses, there is still much work to be done to clean up the Rodanthe shoreline and at -of the.

“It’s going to be an ongoing effort, and it will take many more weeks,” said David Hallac, superintendent of eastern North Carolina National Parks. “We may never be able to remove all the debris from these collapsing houses, because it has broken into so many pieces and has spread so far.”

“The big chunks have been removed, and now the remaining problems are buried debris and small pieces of debris that are the size of an arm, a hand, or even a finger.”

Rodanthe’s house which collapsed on the night of May 10. Photo of Cape Hatteras National Seashore

One of the biggest concerns as cleanup efforts continue are small pieces of plywood, trim and other particles from older homes that may still have embedded nails or sharp edges. These pieces are close to Ocean Drive in Rodanthe, where the house collapsed, but they have also been spotted up to 2.5 miles from the site.

“A lot of these pieces of wood are buried in 1 to 2 inches of sand,” Hallac said. “The beach may look clean, but if you put your fingers in the sand you will see that there is still some debris left.”

All beaches in the Tri-villages are currently open to visitors, but bathers are advised to wear hard-soled shoes or sandals when hitting the sand, particularly along beaches close to the site of the collapses.

The two most recent home collapses occurred on or about May 10, at the height of a multi-day northeast that hit the Outer Banks and closed NC Highway 12 north of Rodanthe for about three days .

The first house, a 4-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom home built in 1985, collapsed the night before on Tuesday morning May 10. The second house, a 4-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home built in 1980, collapsed midday on Tuesday, and a real-time video of the collapse has gone viral and made headlines around the world. .

Rodanthe’s second home after it collapsed on Tuesday afternoon May 10. Photo by Don Bowers.

A total of four Rodanthe houses have fallen into the ocean in the past two years, the other two incidents occurred in February 2021 and May 2020.

According to a March 2022 public meeting hosted by the National Park Service, there are approximately 9 additional homes in the Rodanthe area that also have the potential to collapse in the not-too-distant future.

When all of these houses were originally built in the late 1970s to mid-1980s, they were protected by a line of vegetated dunes and were over 400 feet from the ocean (similar to the houses in seafront in Salvo and North Avon, as well as other areas of Hatteras Island.) However, steady erosion over the past 30-40 years has created a situation where these properties are dangerously close of the ocean and are continually in danger of being destroyed with each storm.

As noted at the March Town Hall, the National Park Service and Dare County have been in contact with owners of these threatened properties to encourage them to initiate a plan to move or remove their homes before they fall into the ocean.

The March meeting in Rodanthe attracted over 80 participants. Photo by Joy Christ.

“Our special permit staff have contacted them all to let them know that if the house collapses and you need a permit to go out on the beach and clean that up, here’s how you get it, here’s all the terms , and you can ask for it before the collapse,” Hallac said at the meeting.

Meanwhile, the cleanup of those mid-May home collapses continues in earnest as part of a collaborative effort between individual homeowners and the National Park Service (NPS).

WM Dunn Construction, LLC of Powells Point, NC, was hired by the owners of the collapsed homes at 24235 and 24265 Ocean Drive, and the company has been working on debris cleanup since the day after the collapses.

In addition, ten members of the Eastern Incident Management Team, made up of National Park Service employees from North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., arrived last week. to provide cleaning assistance. The team, along with NPS personnel, used front-end loaders, dump trucks and other heavy equipment to move tons of debris from Rodanthe to Avon.

The NPS also organized a total of eight volunteer cleanups, resulting in 125 volunteers contributing 215 hours of official volunteer assistance. This is in addition to the many unaccounted hours that have been contributed by people outside of organized beach cleanup events, particularly Hatteras Island residents who may have traveled to Rodanthe as NC Route 12 was closed.

The beach adjacent to Ocean Drive (which was closed to the public immediately after May 10) is now open to visitors and no future shoreline closures are anticipated.

Regardless, with plenty of small debris remaining along the shoreline, which may be hidden just below the surface, bathers are advised to exercise caution as cleanup efforts progress.

“I understand the work from now on is tedious and difficult, because there are a lot of small wastes, and you have to be on all fours to see them,” Hallac said.

“We felt a dire need to begin a major cleanup immediately following the collapse, as there is so much debris it is affecting our park, our visitors and our [clean-up] efforts will continue.

Additional volunteer cleanup events may be scheduled in the future, and Island Free Press will post updates on organized events as they become available.

An aerial view showing the movement of the coastline in Rodanthe, by year. The house that collapsed on Tuesday is displayed in the center, in red. (Image via NC Division of Coastal Management)

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