Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Tragedy struck two Ocracoke families last week. 13 year old Lee Winstead, son of island resident, Fess Winstead, died August 10. The following day Debbie Fraga, sister of islander, Ken DeBarth, drowned after being caught in a rip current. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to their families, and to the families of the island’s other drowning victims this summer.

The Family of Debbie Fraga posted an open letter to the Ocracoke Community acknowledging the importance of a compassionate and caring community in times of need. 

In response to ocean drownings, island resident Tom Pahl posted his observations on how to recognize rip currents. We have re-posted his thoughts on our Facebook page for August 15, 2016. For readers who are not on Facebook, I have added Tom's observations below.

Again, our hearts go out to all the families of Ocracoke residents and visitors who have lost loved ones in recent tragic accidents. Life is wonderful, but fragile. We continue to hope that our island family and friends have a safe and accident-free rest of the summer.   

Our latest Ocracoke Newletter is the story of Augustus Cabarrus, early inlet pilot, and the present day d'Oelsnitz family. Click here to read the Newsletter: Ocracoke...The French Connection.  


Tom Pahl's observations about recognizing rip currents:

I swim in the ocean almost every day. I usually swim parallel to shore between 50 and 100 yards. I have been doing this for several years and I've observed some markers for unsafe conditions.
Rip currents aren't as simple as the diagram depicts, nor as easy to detect. Before you go in the water, spend some time observing the wave patterns.

Waves approach and break parallel to shore.
Waves come in at a steady pace
Waves are spread apart by an even distance.
Waves break on the far sandbar, re-form and break again on shore
Bottom is smooth and deepens at a steady rate

Waves approach at an angle to shore
Waves approach from two angles and criss-cross
Waves approach at different speeds and overtake each other
"Far sandbar" is close in, creating a "lagoon" at water's edge
Bottom is "hilly," rising and falling unpredictably

The "lagoon" effect is currently playing out and it's dangerous. There is a broad sandbar all along the shore which has formed close enough in that it captures lots of water which pours into the "lagoon" with the breaking waves and then, as that trapped water seeks an outlet, it creates strong fast currents which most times run parallel to shore, but sometimes cut through the sandbar and flow out.
I am heartbroken by the recent drownings.

Please be careful, take time to assess the conditions before you go in and if there is any doubt, keep your feet on the bottom, keep your feet on the ground.

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