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If there is a silver lining to Hurricane Irene passing through our community, it just might be the effect it had on Oregon Inlet. Hurricane Irene accomplished in a matter of hours what politicians and engineers haven’t been able to do in decades: open a wide, straight and 18 foot deep channel.

The channel developed as the powerful winds and waves caused by the hurricane eroded away the southern tip of Bodie Island Split, which all year long had threatened boater access under the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. In April, this same channel was as shallow as 6 feet deep in places. As our local fishermen and charter boat operators are all too aware, these shallow channels and constant shoaling create serious hazards for boats, sometimes making it almost impossible to safely navigate the inlet. When the channels aren’t deep enough, the fishing season can be threatened, and many people feared just that this year. But, thanks to Hurricane Irene, it seems that the winter fishing season–the primary source of income for the local industry–is saved.

While the local fishing and charter industry can be thankful for Hurricane Irene’s work on the Oregon Inlet for now, it is, of course, not a permanent solution. Other storms and normal currents are constantly changing the channels in the inlet. The hurricane shows the channel’s vulnerability to these patterns; a different storm could have had the complete opposite effect on the Inlet. In the meantime, thanks to the new channel in the Oregon Inlet, perhaps some of the economic loss caused by storm damage will be offset as industries that depend on the channels are able to operate.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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