Hurricane Sandy was declared a Federal disaster in four states (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island). But Sandy had the widest footprint of any hurricane in recorded history (see "Hurricane Sandy's huge size: freak of nature or climate change?" by Jeff Masters, Weather Underground). So, even south of the storm's landfall, on the North Carolina barrier islands, Sandy's floodwaters did significant harm. One of Sandy's impacts is still being felt a month later: the storm cut North Carolina Route 12, the slender link between the barrier island chain and the mainland. The Virginian-Pilot had the story on October 31: ("Hurricane Sandy buckles N.C. 12 on Hatteras Island," by Gabriella Souza).

"Hurricane Sandy left N.C. 12 rippled and bubbled, transforming portions of the highway north of Rodanthe into a curling ribbon of asphalt sliced open between its yellow lines," the paper reported. "NCDOT [the North Carolina Department of Transportation] does not yet have a timeline for when N.C. 12 south of Oregon Inlet to Rodanthe will reopen. Crews have to first clear deep sand that shifted onto the road during the storm so they can assess the damage to the pavement, NCDOT spokeswoman Nicole Meister said."

  • Credit: NCDOT

Sandy's surge waves, followed by a nor'easter the following week, made a rumpled mess out of stretches of N.C. 12 on Hatteras Island (above). Before repaving the stretch of road, state engineers are working to protect the low-lying highway with sandbags (below).

  • Credit: NCDOT

By early December, the road was still not open. Sandy has eroded not just the road, but the low stretch of shoreline it runs along. Without some measures to rebuild the beach and dunes, authorities fear that winter storms could further damage the road, and undo any repairs. But restoring the beach is controversial, the Huffington Post reports ("Hurricane Sandy: NC Outer Banks Dig Out After Storm, Debate Rebuilding Beaches," by Emery P. Dalesio).

Meanwhile, island residents are cut off from road access, and forced to take a long ferry ride to get to and from the mainland. But the Virginian-Pilot reports that a local industry has sprung up to help motorists get across the stretch of sand that now sits where the asphalt used to be ("Tow truck drivers help people use Hatteras road," by Martha Waggoner ? Associated Press). "...three companies that now offer to take two-wheel-drive vehicles across that sandy section of road on trailers or tow trucks," the paper reports.

Local entrepreneur Eric Stump said his customers are overjoyed: "Just the fact that you could, in about 10 minutes, be able to go the distance that a ferry ride would take three hours."

But how long it will be before that ten-minute drive is just a ten-minute drive again for everyone - without the services of a tow truck - is, at this point, anybody's guess.