Cape Hatteras National Seashore has issued an unusual warning to tourists, as the national park begins reopening in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
Beware of things buried in the sand.
“Beachgoers should be aware of ocean debris that may have washed ashore and buried items that were exposed during tropical storm conditions,” the National Park Service warned.
Hurricane Dorian has already been credited with depositing two Civil War cannon balls on Folly Beach in South Carolina over the weekend, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t happen elsewhere, experts say.
The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina issued a similar warning, noting staff have been scanning beaches for “for any old bombs and ordnance revealed by erosion.”
The National Park Service is slowly reopening facilities on the Outer Banks to tourists, prompting concerns over what they might find in areas washed with storm surge 7 feet above normal. Flooding was an issue, and multiple National Park Service buildings sustained damage.
“While the Seashore is pleased to reopen almost all visitor areas on Hatteras Island, some park areas, businesses, and many community members are still recovering from the harsh impacts of Hurricane Dorian. We ask for your patience while the community continues to recover,” Cape Hatteras Superintendent David Hallac said in a release.
Hurricanes have long been blamed for revealing surprises buried in the sand, including shipwrecks.
Missiles, mines and bombs are common on Carolina beaches because they were the site of military exercises in decades past, as well as Civil War battles. Some of the old bombs have proven still active, while others were merely training ordnance, including a 3-and-a-half-foot tall mine that floated ashore at Cape Hatteras in November 2018.
However, the threat of buried surprises also includes things washed out to sea by storms, many of which find their way back to the beach.
Cape Lookout National Seashore, which is just south of Cape Hatteras, posted on Facebook days ago that it found the “harbor filled with debris,” much of which could wash ashore.
Both Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout national parks reported damage from the storm, including one historic building at the Ocracoke Light Station that “was lifted off its foundation and moved.”
At Cape Hatteras, park officials said they “counted over 130 flooded vehicles just in the NPS parking lot cross from the Visitor Center.”
N.C. 12, which connects the barrier islands, remains closed this week on Ocracoke Island, after the pavement was ripped up by storm surge.