Hurricane Lee waves easing, but not threat of deadly rip currents and shore break along Outer Banks

Hurricane Lee waves easing, but not threat of deadly rip currents and shore break along Outer Banks

September 15th, 2023

High surf along the Outer Banks from Hurricane Lee passing just offshore appears to have reached its peak on Friday morning. And while the threat of overwash is starting to subside, the threat of deadly rip currents and shore break will continue into early next week.

“Fingers crossed that the next two high tides will be uneventful from an overwash perspective,” Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson said Friday afternoon. “Ocean conditions will take some time to settle down.”

Thursday night’s high tide brought some minor overwash at the Sandy Bay access between Frisco and Hatteras village and on the north end of Ocracoke Island. And the strong winds blew a light skim of sand along parts of N.C. 12 on Hatteras Island.

The Friday morning high tide saw just minimal overwash at the usual trouble spots on Hatteras Island such as along Pea Island, in Rodanthe, Buxton, and between Frisco. Travel was hazardous at times along the four-wheel drive beaches north of Corolla.

Water streams over the dunes on Tower Circle Drive in Buxton with the morning high tide on on Sept. 15, 2023. [Don Bowers/Island Free Press photo]
Drivers try to negotiate standing water from ocean overwash in Buxton on Sept. 15, 2023, from waves created by Hurricane Lee. [Don Bowers/Island Free Press photo]
There was no overwash reported on N.C. 12 with Friday evening’s high tide, according to Pearson. NCDOT will be out early Saturday to move any additional wind blown sand and deal with standing water along secondary roads in Rodanthe.

The OLD NC 12 at Mirlo Beach covered in water. The Jug Handle Bridge now bypasses this area.

Friday’s sunrise off Corolla:

That threat of possible issues along N.C. 12 on Hatteras Island has led organizers of the annual Day at the Docks celebration in Hatteras village to cancel this weekend’s event.

The Dare County Public Works Department was unable to collect commercial trash on Hatteras Island on Friday. The next pick up will be Monday. Residential collection north of the Rodanthe roundabout was also canceled, and will next happen on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service has issued a Coastal Flood Warning and High Surf Advisory through Saturday morning, with large breaking waves of 7 to 14 feet still possible.

One positive is that the lunar tidal cycle did not exacerbate the threat of overwash due to the new moon. Waves from Hurricane Franklin two weeks ago came during a King Tide when the full moon was at its closest point in its orbit around the Earth.

Water levels at Duck Pier hit their highest mark from Lee just before high tide at around 9 a.m. Friday. [NOAA image]

High tide is around 9 p.m. Friday, and 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The cold front that crossed the area early Thursday kept Hurricane Lee away from the coast, but the winds behind the front created a confused sea state because of the southeasterly ground swell topped by a northeasterly wind swell.

Hurricane Lee latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center

The long-period swell has started to shift to a more northeasterly direction as Lee heads towards the Atlantic Canada, but that does not mean the risk of rip currents and shore break will be declining anytime soon.

During the week following Labor Day, waves generated by Hurricane Franklin and Tropical Storm Idalia claimed three lives in the span of three days along the Outer Banks.

A 28-year-old woman from Washington, D.C., died off Avon on Labor Day, followed by a 68-year-old Ohio man off Hatteras village, and a 36-year-old man from Connecticut off Nags Head.

“Visitors are urged to avoid swimming in the ocean until conditions improve,” Cape Hatteras National Seashore posted on their severe weather updates page. “Large breaking waves, life-threatening rip currents, beach erosion, ocean overwash and coastal flooding are impacting the area. These dangerous conditions are expected to persist into this weekend.”

No Swimming flags have been posted along all Outer Banks beaches since Wednesday, which means beachgoers are not allowed into the ocean above their knees.

Surfers are authorized to be in the water when the red flags are up under specific language in town ordinances that apply to No Swimming flags.

Local and state agencies have deployed variable message signs along area roads to alert the public of the rip current and rough surf threat.

Stay with the WOBX Weather Center for the latest updates.

National Weather Service seven-day forecasts for:

LIVE data from flood gauges at key locations throughout North Carolina, including automated email and text alerts, visit

Sign up for emergency alerts from Dare County and its municipalities. Beach safety and rip current information can be found at

Currituck County provides beach safety and emergency updates for Corolla and the mainland via Currituck Alert.

The NCDOT Ferry Division provides real-time text or email alerts from their routes via the Ferry Information Notification System (FINS) at System-wide route status updates will also be posted on the Ferry Division’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

For the latest images from NCDOT traffic cameras on the Outer Banks and northeastern North Carolina, visit:

LIVE video from Kitty Hawk, courtesy Twiddy & Co.:

LIVE video from Rodanthe, courtesy

Click to watch LIVE video from Corolla, courtesy Currituck County/WebCOOS

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