November 15, 2012

Avon and Rodanthe piers recovering from Sandy’s wallop

…WITH SLIDE SHOW


By ANNE C. BOWERS


Violent waves and large fields of debris in the ocean delivered punishing blows to both Rodanthe and Avon piers last month.  Both structures experienced significant damage at the hand of Superstorm Sandy.  Oddly, the weary Frisco pier, which has been closed for several years, suffered little damage and reported the loss of only one, maybe two, pilings.

“The ocean was crushing,” said Scott Truesdale, one the three new owners of Hatteras Island Fishing Pier in Rodanthe. 

Rodanthe Pier lost about 80 feet during the storm in addition to two side-by-side pilings that supported a section of the surviving platform.  Truesdale said the 12-inch-square pilings were snapped off like they had been hit by something really large.

The owners also lost their recently rebuilt and newly landscaped dunes along with their irrigation system.  These dunes were built to protect the parking lot and access to the pier.

Avon Pier also suffered damage at the end of it.  The T-shaped end cap lost two pieces from the middle section but the sides remained intact.  The overall length of the pier remains the same.  Pier manager Keith Mathews believes they lost eight pilings and is waiting for the water to clear before determining how the pilings broke.

Following the storm, a crane was out on the Avon pier clearing up some broken pieces to prevent any further damage.

The businesses had no damage to their pier houses.

“We had tied everything down and boarded the windows,” said Truesdale, but he was surprised that the pier sustained so much damage.  “It wasn’t the wind that we were worried about. It was the ocean.” 

Mathews feels that Avon Pier will remain closed until Easter for many reasons.  Difficult travel conditions are keeping visitors away and making it nearly impossible to get the lumber needed to repair the structure.

“We usually close Dec. 1 anyway,” said Mathews.

Prior to the storm, the new owners of Rodanthe pier had already contracted for work on the pier beginning on Oct. 1.  Even though the contractor was running behind, most of the lumber which included 19 pilings, was already on site.  The heavy equipment needed to do the work was already sitting in Nags Head.

“It kinda worked out,” Truesdale said about the timing.  “As soon as he can get the rig on the island, we will start.”  Currently, it is expected to arrive at the pier by Nov. 17.

They were considering changing the shape of the Rodanthe pier when rebuilding, citing that the T-shape is not as strong as a hexagon or octagon shape.  They won’t know for sure until they start working on it.

Truesdale explained that they have enough material on hand to build 95 feet of new pier.  The repair permit limits the amount of square footage used, not the specific length of the pier.

Scott Truesdale and his partners, Terry Plumblee and Mark McCarraher, bought the bank-owned Rodanthe pier back in the spring from First South Bank.  They were friends who had fished the pier for almost 20 years and had often joked about owning it.  Years later, their musings turned into reality.

Their first summer was great, Truesdale said. The owners saw a lot of growth in a short time.  Didn’t hurt that the fishing was fantastic.  They were pleased by the support from the local community as well as the CAMA folks, the National Park Service, and Chicamacomico Fire Department and Water Rescue, which used the pier beach to launch rescue vehicles and the parking lot for ambulance pickup.

Truesdale, Plumblee and McCarraher invested $50,000 into a new parking lot and protective dunes with an irrigation system to promote quick growth of dune-strengthening vegetation such as sea oats.  The partners did much of the work themselves, such the general cleaning up and building the sand fence. 

Rebuilding of the dunes began about a week after the Hurricane Sandy, and they were working towards opening back up as quickly as possible, hoping to capture the last little bit of business they could before closing down for winter after Thanksgiving. 

They got the pier open in time for Veteran’s Day weekend with the dunes rebuilt, rock on the parking area, and the end of the dock barricaded for safety.  For most businesses, this was a slow Veteran’s Day, but Rodanthe Pier was open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. for anglers.

Truesdale said that the owners hope to expand the food service by 2013, in addition to remodeling the bathrooms and the inside of the pier house.

“We hope to represent everyone, not just fishermen,” he said.

Even though Avon Pier isn’t open, the surrounding beaches have been dotted with fishermen who were enjoying some fabulous fishing.

In spite of the storm shortened season, Mathews said that the Avon Pier had a great season.  Like many island businesses, they needed that last boost of business in October and November, which is locally considered “profit time.”

“The storm has been hard on everybody,” concluded Mathews.

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