Coastal storms are destroying wooden fishing piers on the North Carolina coast

Posted at 5:14 PM, Feb 13, 2015

Outer Banks, N.C. - Wooden fishing piers,  long standing symbols of the North Carolina coast, are struggling.

"The ambiance of the wooden piers are just what makes the Outer Banks," said Scott Cahoon, professional photographer for Hatteras Island Phantom Photography.

Photos: Portion of Rodanthe Pier collapses

With coastal storms over the years, some of those piers have been ripped apart, like the Frisco Pier during Hurricane Earl in 2010.  Others have received a lot of damage, too, like the Avalon Fishing Pier during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Rodanthe Pier Thursday.

"Mother Nature, the ocean.  The ocean does what it wants to, when it wants to," said Cahoon.

NewsChannel 3 spoke to Cahoon in Kill Devil Hills.  But just down the road, Cahoon captured several images of the Rodanthe Pier, just after part of it collapsed in the ocean due to high seas.

"I do some fishing and when I do, I go to the pier.  And I love it.  You feel the sway of the ocean, and it's just a great time," said Cahoon.

If you ever look at a map of North Carolina, the Outer Banks stick out far into the Atlantic Ocean, making things like piers susceptible to high seas and damage when storms roll through. In fact, wooden piers can see a great deal of damage under those conditions.  Jennette's Pier in Nags Head, which is made of concrete, did receive a little damage during Hurricane Sandy, but it was not major.

"When you stood on the old Jennette's Pier, the wooden pier, during a swell event like we have here today, you could feel the whole thing shake and move. It's rare you'll even feel a vibration coming through these pilings right now," said Mike Remige, Director of Jennette's Pier.

Jennette's Pier is one of two concrete piers open to the public in the state of North Carolina.  Remige says in the early 1980s, there were about 36 wooden piers along the North Carolina coast.  Now there are not as many.

"That's one of the reasons this pier was built the way it was. There is a fear that one day, this may be the only pier left in the Outer Banks.  And I hope not, but you never know what time will do," said Remige.

Remige says a lot of wooden piers have not been built back because it costs a lot of money for owners to do it. And it is very difficult to find a company to insure them.  Remige tells NewsChannel 3 that the state of North Carolina requires Jennette's Pier to carry insurance.  In fact, Remige says it costs more than $150,000 a year to insure the pier.

So while concrete piers might be more sound and lasting, wooden piers are still very much a part of the history of the Outer Banks.


Portion of Rodanthe Pier collapses