Hazards Impacting the Outer Banks
These threats have been identified to potentially impact the Outer Banks.
- Coastal Hazards
- Erosion, storm surge, rip currents, and sea level rise pose risks to coastal
areas. Erosion can occur along the coast and in estuarine areas. Loss of land due to
erosion is a hazard in itself, if eroded land contains structures. Erosion also makes an area
more vulnerable to other hazards such as storm surge, by removing protective areas. Storm
surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted
astronomical tides. This rise in water level can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas
particularly when storm surge coincides with normal high tide, resulting in storm tides
reaching up to 20 feet or more in some cases.
- Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of seaward flowing water along the coast, extending
from the shoreline to outside the surf zone.
- Sea level has been rising over the past century due to thermal expansion of warming ocean waters
and increased ice melt of land-based ice. Due to sea-level rise projected throughout the
21st century and beyond, coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience
adverse impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion.
- Drought is a deficiency in precipitation over an extended period. It is a
recurrent feature of climate that occurs in virtually all climate zones. However,
drought can affect people’s health and safety. It has the potential to impact water supply,
agricultural yields, and water-dependent industries. Drought conditions can also increase the
likelihood of wind erosion and increase wildfire risk.
- An earthquake is a movement or shaking of the ground. Most earthquakes are
caused by the release of stresses accumulated as a result of the rupture of rocks along
opposing fault planes in the Earth’s outer crust. Tsunami can be caused by an earthquake
along a subduction zone, although subduction zones are rare in the Atlantic basin.
- Extreme Heat
- Extreme heat events are one of the leading weather-related causes of death in
the United States. Extreme high temperatures compromise the body’s ability to regulate its
temperature, which can result in a cascade of illnesses and can aggravate chronic conditions.
Extreme heat can also cause damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
- Flooding is defined by the rising and overflowing of water onto normally dry land.
Flooding can result from an overflow of inland waters or an unusual accumulation or runoff
of surface waters from any source.
- Hurricane & Tropical Storm
- A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, a low pressure system
that generally forms in the tropics. A typical cyclone is accompanied by
thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near
the earth’s surface. Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred
miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 miles per hour. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn
tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from
- Severe Weather (Thunderstorm Wind, Lightning, and Hail)
- Thunderstorms result from the rapid
upward movement of warm, moist air. They can occur inside warm, moist air masses and at
fronts. Severe thunderstorm winds arise from convection and have speeds of at least 58 mph,
or are winds of any speed producing a fatality, injury or damage.
- Lightning is an electrical discharge between positive and negative regions of a thunderstorm.
Each year, lightning is responsible for deaths, injuries, and millions of dollars in
property damage across the country, including damage to buildings, communications systems,
power lines, and electrical systems. Lightning also causes forest and brush fires.
- Hail is associated with thunderstorms that can also bring high winds and tornadoes. It forms
when updrafts carry raindrops into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere where they freeze
into ice. Hailstones are usually less than two inches in diameter and can fall at speeds of
- Severe Winter Storm
- Severe winter storm can involve heavy snowfall and/or ice accumulation
(generally noted when accumulation reaches ¼ inch or more), often accompanied by extreme cold,
which can result in blocked roads, dangerous road and sidewalk conditions, downed trees and
power lines, and hypothermia.
- A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a
thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage
paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.
- A wildfire is an uncontained fire that spreads through the environment. Wildfires
the ability to consume large areas, including infrastructure, property, and resources.
- Hazardous Materials Incident
- A hazardous material is any item or agent (biological, chemical,
physical) which has the potential to cause harm to humans, animals, or the
environment, either by itself or through interaction with other factors. A release or spill
of bulk hazardous materials could result in fire, explosion, toxic cloud or direct contamination of
people and property. The effects may involve a local site or many square miles. Health problems may
be immediate, such as corrosive effects on skin and lungs, or be gradual, such as the development of
cancer from a carcinogen. Damage to property could range from immediate destruction by explosion to
permanent contamination by a persistent hazardous material.
- Radiological Emergency
- A nuclear and radiation accident is defined by the International
Energy Agency as “an event that has led to significant consequences to people, the environment or
the facility.” Often, nuclear incidents result from damage to the reactor core of a nuclear
power plant which can release radioactivity into the environment. A small portion of northern
Currituck County falls within the Ingestion Planning Zone for Surry Power Station.
- Terrorism is defined in the United States by the Code of Federal Regulations as:
unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a
government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or
social objectives.” A terror threat is generally more likely to be targeted at a critical or
- Cyber Threat
- Electronic attack using one computer system against another in order to
people or disrupt other systems is a cyber-attack. All governments, businesses and
citizens that conduct business utilizing computers face these threats. Cyber-security and
critical infrastructure protection are among the most important national security issues facing our
- Infrastructure Failure
- Critical transportation infrastructure includes several key bridges
roads that that are integral to the functioning of the communities in the
planning area. Disruption of any of these services could result from the majority of the natural
and human-caused hazards described in this plan. In addition to a secondary or cascading impact from
another primary hazard, infrastructure can fail as a result of faulty equipment, lack of
maintenance, degradation over time, or accidental damage such as a barge colliding with a bridge