Updated: Cape Lookout National Seashore Heavily Damaged By Hurricane Irene, Other Units Have Varying Degrees Of Damage
Editor's note: This updates with numbers of horses seen at Shackleford Banks, and word of a new foal.
Cape Lookout National Seashore, the spot where Hurricane Irene came ashore in the United States last Saturday, was heavily damaged by the storm, according to latest reports. Other National Park System units along the East Coast received varying amounts of damage, but most are open for visitors.
At Cape Lookout, the seashore's dock at Harker's Island needs to be rebuilt, all cabins on Great Island were damaged to varying degrees and will be closed at least until September 12, Cape Lookout Village "has suffered heavy damage," and the dump station at Cape Point is gone.
Overwash from the hurricane also has covered most of the national seashore with 2 feet of sand. While wildlife biologists say many sea turtle nests were lost to the storm, the seashore's wild horses on Shackleford Banks seem to have weathered Irene in good shape. At least 72 percent of the 116 known horser on the island have been seen.
"Counting will continue until all are accounted for. As a nice surprise, a new foal believed to have been born on Sunday was seen," seashore officials reported.
At Cape Hatteras National Seashore just to the north,damage reports cite flooding and roof damage to concession and permitted service providers facilities, missing or damage boardwalks, and various downed tree limbs, signs, and fencing.
"Resource advisors are in the field assessing natural and cultural resource impacts as well," a Park Service report said. "Efforts to open additional ramps to popular park beaches are moving forward. ... all ocean and sound-side beach areas have been evaluated for safe access for both pedestrians and vehicles. Beaches are open to pedestrian access throughout the park unless otherwise posted, but park visitors can expect to see some resource protection closures in effect. Many boat ramps have been reopened.
Elsewhere along the Eastern Seaboard:
* Petersburg National Battlefield – Hurricane Irene caused significant damage to the park. Staff, volunteers and cleanup teams from other areas are working hard to clear roads and trails and get the battlefield reopened as safely and as quickly as possible. Power has been restored to park headquarters and to the ranger station, but remaining buildings are still off-line. At present there is no estimate when power might be restored. Many battlefield staff are still without power in their homes and thousands of people in the surrounding area are still without power.
The Eastern Front Visitor Center should reopen by the end of the week. However, because of extremely hazardous conditions, the battlefield tour road and surrounding trails will not be reopened until the cleanup work is complete. Crews are using heavy equipment and chainsaws to clear roads and trails. Because of the inherent danger to the crews as they complete their work and to the public if they were in these areas, the closures will remain in effect until further notice. The City Point unit, the Five Forks battlefield and the Poplar Grove National Cemetery are still closed to the public because of cleanup activities.
* Richmond National Battlefield Park -- Field assessments are revealing additional damage, particularly from trees falling on earthworks.
* George Washington Birthplace National Monument – The park is still closed. Tree removal is under way. The earliest that power will be restored will be Friday.
* Assateague Island National Seashore -- The Maryland end of the park has reopened with about 90% of park facilities ready for the public and employees. One parking lot remains closed and a few developed area campsites are still underwater. The west side of the backcountry remains closed because it is still underwater and staff cannot get in to conduct evaluations. Damage to backcountry roads and campgrounds is suspected. The Virginia end of the park will open on Friday when one of the district’s four parking lots reopens. It does not make sense to repair the other three until next spring because the public demand is not there and the hurricane and nor'easter seasons will continue until spring.
* Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area -- The park is still in the incident command system. An assessment team and two trail crews – one from Acadia and the other from Shenandoah – arrived in the park yesterday to provide assistance, joining staff from Upper Delaware already on site. Roads and trails remain impassable in both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey portions of the park. Fast-moving streams overtopped roads, undermined road surfaces and shoulders, inundated trail bridges, and flooded park buildings. The Delaware River crested Tuesday, causing minor flooding and washing over low-lying sections of U.S. Route 209. The majority of park buildings and residences are without electrical power. Park staff are performing initial damage assessments and cleanup operations throughout the 70,000 acre park. Extensive closures to park roads and facilities are expected to continue through the Labor Day weekend:
* The Delaware River and all river access points from Milford to Delaware Water Gap remain closed until the river recedes to a safe level.
* Reopening Route 209 between Bushkill and Milford is a high priority. Although floodwaters have receded, downed power lines have to be cleared and damaged road shoulders repaired before the road can be completely opened to through traffic. A small section at the south end has reopened.
* Also closed are sections of River Road (PA), Old Mine Road and Route 615 (NJ).
* The Dingmans Falls and Kittattinny Point Visitor Centers are closed.
* Other public facilities closed include Millbrook Village, Dingmans Campground, the park’s two group campsites, all swim beaches, and picnic areas.
* Gateway National Recreation Area -- All park residents have returned to their quarters and employees are back at work. The Sandy Hook, Riis Beach and Fort Tilden areas were still closed yesterday, pending cleanup and restoration of services. The park is being assisted by the Pacific West IMT (Denny Ziemann, IC), an interdisciplinary support team, and a team of arborists from Olmstead.
* Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area – The park came through Irene with minimal damage, but major damage is reported to the pier and float on Peddocks Island.
* Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller National Historical Park – The park will likely remain closed for the rest of the week due to a lack of water.