So, what do I mean? Well, the answer lies in the sand and the wind and the way they can work together or tear one another apart and it's all part of nature. You see, back in those days pictured, when a storm came with winds off the sea, lots of sand blew toward the west, caught by the scrub growth in the vacant sandy land between the beach road and the dunes. Later, when the predominant wind field changed to a more seaward flow, the sand would blow back to be caught by the natural sea oats along the beach dunes. They prospered, but for them to do so, requires the sand to be carried by the wind. When the oceanfront became heavily built up, often with multi-storied buildings spaced close together, the flow was broken and that meant that erosion would take a much more serious place in oceanfront beach issues. That necessitated man to create programs like beach re-nourishment at huge cost to the taxpayers and that very sand never ends up with the same staying power as that which came naturally. They build it up and then it washes out and the cost continues to grow as it repeats itself.
The Jockey's Ridge dune formation back in those early days was much more prominent and taller than it is now. It has literally been pancaked and that has been caused by the same issue. Those healthy, but low dunes that run north of Jockey's Ridge are saved by the woodlands right behind them. Jockey's Ridge began the same way, but ultimately the forest was covered totally in that location, allowing the foundation for the dune to grow. It can no longer replenish itself and the western line of dunes are not likely to cover the remaining woodlands since there is no excess sand to capture. With so much of the large land area that used to be the flats now developed and covered either with concrete, homes or planted grass, the excess amounts of sand are gone because they are all covered.
Also of note is the lack of infrastructure to move the water which used to ultimately percolate out through the sandy and flat scrub land from excessive rain and or flooding from salt water. That's why the major pools of stagnant water form after heavy rains and flooding storms and the only solution being used is to pump the nasty and toxic mess into the ocean, the very body of water that tourists come to the beach to enjoy. As the process continues and more and more algae blooms will grow, a similar fate to that which we see down here in Florida repeat itself endlessly. In the case of the Outer Banks, this creates a situation where another perfect storm like the Ash Wednesday nor-'aster in 1962 would likely be disaster from which the area might not recover. It is likely the building of a new bridge up below Corolla will likely just add to the situation with the higher growth and the impact to that portion of the beachfront in years to come.
I don't write this piece as a doomsday prophet, nor do I expect some miraculous change in economic outlook to take place, but I do think it's important for all who enjoy and love the Outer Banks to realize that what is basically a sandbar showing above water with massive volumes of water on both sides, can only go so far before the islands speak out in the only way they can. That answer will likely be giving themselves back to the natural environment from which they were born, the Mighty Atlantic. The old timers of those days of my youth, many were my relatives, warned of what would someday happen and they were wise sages coming from a long line of those glorious Outer Bankers with the strange accent. They were right and nature will do what nature is going to do, so just at least be aware and don't be shocked when things don't turn out the way that some promise they will. Man has never been able to truly defeat the sea and natural elements, he just fools himself for a few generations at a time. I love the place and I'm just glad I have the memories that I have from those days gone by. I just hope that everyone will think about it and try to live accordingly.