On this date in 1990 a dredge collided with the Herbert C. Bonner bridge (which spans Oregon inlet) during a storm, causing the collapse of a lengthy segment of the bridge. The accident isolated residents and visitors on Hatteras Island. In order to leave Hatteras thousands of vacationers were forced to take the Hatteras Inlet ferry to Ocracoke and then board a ferry to Swan Quarter or Cedar Island. In short order, Ocracoke Island was flooded with refugees. Ferry lines for vehicles waiting to board the ferries to the mainland stretched down NC 12 as far as the National Park Service campground. Waiting times quickly expanded to days, rather than hours.
The situation developed quickly, with stranded visitors dealing with cold nights, extremely limited accommodations (hundreds of people were forced to sleep in their cars), hunger, and lack of facilities. As soon as Ocracoke islanders realized the extent of the problem, volunteers were organized to care for the stranded motorists. We made sandwiches, and delivered food and beverages to the unfortunate folks. Motel owners and individuals offered free rooms to families with young children or elderly persons.
It took days to evacuate visitors from Hatteras and Ocracoke, and many weeks for emergency
construction workers to repair the breach and reconnect the only highway link to the rest of the Outer Banks and the mainland.
You can read more about the accident, with photos, in an article written five years ago in the Island Free Press. Click here to read the article.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102115.htm.