A thousand drivers in North Carolina are waiting for some news on the Bonner Bridge right now.
Can they roll home to Hatteras?
Or do they have to float home?
The state highway department is finishing two tests to figure that out.
Yesterday and again today, engineers have been studying test results to see if the Bonner Bridge is safe for traffic. But now, as Hatteras islanders start heading home, there's no answer.
As many as a thousand cars a day crowd onto ferries, floating two hours from one side of the Bonner Bridge to the other. Normally, that's just a few minutes drive, but relentless Outer Banks currents have undercut the bridge's concrete pilings. Nothing crosses it now.
For the past two days, engineers attacked first with a band-aid, pumping sand out of the inlet and directing it to the underwater roots of the pilings. If it settles thickly, it could be enough to let the cars roll again. A second part of the plan would then plant concrete forms and massive sandbags around the weak spots.
Today engineers have been poring over sonar data trying to see if the first-aid was enough. So far, no answer. All they have been able to say with any certainty is that the bridge could open soon, or maybe in a few months.
Not much of a comfort to some on Hatteras Island who have seen commutes that once took an hour turn into all-day affairs.
That's extra worrisome for some who might need quick medical help, like pregnant women. And Dare County's medical helicopter is down for repairs. But other hospitals have offered their choppers, and Coast Guard air crews are on standby to help if needed.