Big Winds, Big Bridge, Big Month in NC

Big happenings in North Carolina this month: monster winds on Grandfather Mountain, and new bridge on the coast. Photos courtesy of Grandfather Mountain and Dan Bowers, Ocracoke Observer 

March 1, 2019

You needed to hold onto your hat and quite possibly hold onto something anchored into the ground on Grandfather Mountain this month. The park’s weather recording station at the Mile High Swinging Bridge registered a three-second-wind gust of 124 mph around midnight on February 18. That broke the previous record of 121.3 mph set five days earlier. And about two hours after that record-breaking gust, the meter clocked a gust of wind at 122.3 mph. It all started one day before, when the weather station recorded 16 consecutive hours of wind speeds topping 100 mph.

And speaking of winds… You should feel plenty of wind driving across the new Oregon Inlet Bridge connecting the Outer Banks. Yes, the replacement for the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, which was built in 1963, opened to traffic on Monday, February 12. The bridge doesn’t have a name yet. Construction on the $252 million bridge started in March 2016. It’s 2.8 miles long and rises 90 feet above Oregon Inlet at its highest point. There are eight-foot shoulders on each side.

This is the first bridge in the state built with stainless reinforcing steel, which NCDOT says will provide extra protection against saltwater corrosion. The bridge is built to last 100-years. The old bridge will be torn down by the end of the year, although a 1000-foot section at the south end is being left standing for a pedestrian walkway. The new bridge will be dedicated April 2.

 —Frank Graff 

 Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a broadcast and online science series.