PEA ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, N.C. -- A year after Hurricane Irene and the storm's only visual remnant on the road linking most of North Carolina's Outer Banks to the mainland is a prefab bridge crossing a breach scoured between Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic.
But big changes could be coming for N.C. Highway 12 before the next big storm arrives that again raise questions about safety, the environment and aesthetics on Hatteras Island.
The state Transportation Department wants to elevate 5 miles of N.C. 12 within the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and north of Rodanthe, raising the road of pilings to more than 30 feet in some locations. These are separate from the impending construction of the Bonner Bridge replacement over Oregon Inlet.
Environmental groups say the bridges are temporary bandages on an eroding island.