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All primary roads have reopened in NC after Hurricane Dorian, except for one

Aerial views of Hurricane Dorian aftermath on Ocracoke Island

Aerial footage shows flooding and wind damage on Ocracoke Island and washed out and sand covered sections of N.C. 12 in the Outer Banks.
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Aerial footage shows flooding and wind damage on Ocracoke Island and washed out and sand covered sections of N.C. 12 in the Outer Banks.

Two state highways in Sampson County flooded by Hurricane Dorian last week reopened Wednesday, leaving only one primary road in North Carolina still closed as a result of the storm.

N.C. 12 on Ocracoke Island was washed out between the village and the dock where people catch the ferries to and from Hatteras Island. The most serious damage occurred about two miles south of the ferry dock, where more than 1,000 feet of pavement and the dunes that protect the road from the Atlantic Ocean will need to be replaced, said NCDOT spokesman Bruce Siceloff.

The department must present a repair plan to the National Park Service, which owns the land, before it can begin work, Siceloff said. NCDOT hopes to have the road open by Thanksgiving, he said.

In the meantime, NCDOT has begun running ferries between Hatteras and Silver Lake Harbor in the village of Ocracoke. For now, only permanent residents, nonresident property owners and people authorized by Hyde County Emergency Management are allowed on island-bound ferries, including those from Swan Quarter and Cedar Island.

Altogether, about a dozen roads remained closed because of Dorian on Wednesday; all but N.C. 12 are secondary routes in rural areas. It could be the end of the year before all of them are repaired and reopened, Siceloff said.

Sections of N.C. 411 and N.C. 903 in Sampson County were closed when floodwaters covered the road last week. That water has receded, and NCDOT inspectors determined that there was no damage to the highways, allowing the barricades to come down Wednesday, said spokeswoman Lauren Haviland.

NCDOT estimates that clearing and repairing roads after Dorian will cost between $40 million and $50 million. The state will seek financial help from the federal government, either from the Federal Highway Administration for primary roads or the Federal Emergency Management Agency for secondary ones.

State officials had feared far worse as Dorian began to move up the East Coast as a major hurricane. The fast moving storm didn’t make landfall until it reached the Outer Banks, then moved back out to sea, sparing Eastern North Carolina from the kind of flooding rains that followed Hurricane Florence last year.

The cost of road repairs after Florence has reached nearly $180 million, and NCDOT expects to spend tens of millions more when the repairs are all done.

Repair and cleanup costs from Florence and other storms, including clearing snow, ice and rock slides and repairing roads washed out by spring downpours, have reached more than $300 million over the last year. NCDOT says that and the cost of settling hundreds of lawsuits related to the Map Act have created a financial crunch that has forced the department to delay new construction projects and lay off some temporary workers.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.
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