Outer Banks History: The Ash Wednesday Storm

ashwednesdaystormouterbanks

It's been three long weeks without an Outer Banks Historypost, so let's hop in the way-back-machine and see what March has in store for us.

Each month we are pulling a big event from the pages of OBX history and sharing it with you. We've covered the Civil War over the past two months, and this month we're going to adjust our focus to some amazing OBX weather; the infamous Ash Wednesday Storm. 

The Outer Banks is well known for strong collisions with Mother Nature. That will happen when a tiny ribbon of sand dangles out into the fierce waters of the Atlantic Ocean. We know this all to well with our most recent run-in with Hurricane Irene

It's nothing personal. It's just nature. But it sure feels personal when the havoc is being wreaked and the destruction is being cleaned. And the famed AshWednesday Storm is one of the most destructive acts of nature the OBX has seen.

Hurricanes tend to get all of the hype, but nor'easters can be at least as devastating, if not more. Hurricanes move fast. Their destruction may be great,but they are out of town quickly. Nor'easters on the other hand tend to linger. They can sit off the coast for days, and as a result, they stretch acrossmultiple high tides making the storm surge destruction that much worse.

Here's a video from an OBX nor'easter from 2009. Nothing close to the Ash Wednesday Storm, but it helps create some perspective of the destructionnor'easters can cause.

The Ash Wednesday storm lingered through 5 high tides over three days! That's a doozey.

And they didn't have the luxury of the Weather Channel to help with preparation.

Let's see what Wikipedia hasto say:

  • The Ash Wednesday Storm occurred on March 6-8, 1962 along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States.
  • It was considered by the U.S. Geological Surveyto be one of the most destructive storms ever to affect the mid-Atlantic states.
  • One of the ten worst storms in the United States in the 20th century.
  • It lingered through five high tides over a three day period, killing 40 people, injuring over 1,000 and causing hundreds of millions in property damagein six states.
  • The massive storm was caused by an unusual combination of three pressure areas, combined with atmospheric conditions of the Spring equinox whichnormally cause exceptionally high tides.
  • The storm stalled in the mid-Atlantic for almost three days, pounding coastal areas with continuous rain, high winds, and tidal surges.

Here's a great article from the Outer Banks Sentinel that recounts some of the personal stories from OBX residents at the time. Here's a quick quote to peak your interest: 

"Looking out her window at the beach road, Perry saw waves streaming down the road - carrying gas cylinders with them. When Kill Devil Hills Police ChiefTom Dowdy knocked at her door, he told Perry there was no time to dress the children. "Wrap them in a blanket," he said."

The Outer Banks is amazing. Mother Nature has created a perfect paradise along the North Carolina coast. But nature is fickle, and we need to take the goodwith the bad. The destruction can be devastating and carry steep costs, but it is the heavy cost that we must bear for enjoying this beautiful ribbon ofsand.

Mama Nature, please take it easy on us, and we will continue to look out for you.

 

Thursday, March 22, 2012


 
 
 

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