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‘I Was Fighting Back Tears,’ Outer Banks Resident Recalls, As Atlantic Ocean Claims Another House

Jenni Koontz, captured the moment the Atlantic Ocean claimed yet another house in Rodanthe, North Carolina, last month

Holding back tears and standing a safe distance away, photographer and Outer Banks resident, Jenni Koontz, captured the moment the Atlantic Ocean claimed yet another house in Rodanthe, North Carolina, last month. Just last year, four oceanfront homes collapsed into the ocean along the coastline in Rodanthe on Hatteras Island, which is part of North Carolina’s famous Outer Banks. And officials warn more homes will likely succumb to the ocean this year.

“You can hear it crumbling and the glass breaking, and you can hear it just getting ripped apart,” Koontz told AccuWeather National Reporter Jillian Angeline. “It was really insane.”

Jenni Koontz talks with AccuWeather National Reporter Jillian Angeline about the recent house collapse in North Carolina. COURTESY/ACCUWEATHER

On March 13, a one-story home located at 23228 East Point Drive, about a mile north of where two houses collapsed last May, collapsed into the ocean. Koontz, who was walking along the beach at the time, had a front-row seat to the disaster. With tears in her eyes, she watched as someone’s hard work and a house full of memories got swept away by the crashing waves.

“It was like a movie … I was emotional the whole time,” said Koontz. “It wasn’t my house; it’s not my piece of land. It’s not my home, I’ve never stayed in that house, but I was actually fighting back tears.”

According to The Free Island Press, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house was deemed unsafe for occupancy last year. That is when the homeowners turned off the electricity.

While the bulk of the debris was mostly contained to the site, park officials warned visitors to use caution when on the nearby beach.

The elevated surf and gusty winds that occurred during the middle of March are what inevitably brought down the house, WAVY reported.

The Outer Banks are a chain of narrow, low-lying barrier islands that protect the mainland of North Carolina from dangerous storm surges and coastal storms. However, this makes the area susceptible to those dangers from the ocean.

“Over time, that sandy beach completely eroded into the ocean. Even the dunes went away,” David Hallac, the superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, told Angeline. “So now the high tide line is, in some cases, under the homes.”

Coastal erosion is inevitable, but the erosion rate along the North Carolina coast is significantly high. Where this house in Rodanthe crumbled into the ocean, the coastal erosion rate is about 12 feet per year, according to the Coastal Resource Commission’s interactive map, and there are no signs of it slowing down.

Coastal erosion has brought the coastline closer to many beachfront homes. A photo from May 2022 shows waves crashing down just a few feet away from several houses. COURTESY/ACCUWEATHER

According to Hallac, residents will have to adapt to the ever-changing coastline along the Outer Banks. This involves costly tasks, such as moving their homes to a different piece of land.

Jeff Scott, the president of Scott Team Realty in the Outer Banks, says the recent house collapse is bad news for his business.

“When houses fall in, I lose business,” Scott told Angeline in an interview.

Scott says he’d like to see more areas participate in beach nourishment programs to protect homes better.

“Besides money, you need sand,” said Scott. “If you don’t have both of those, then it’s not going to be feasible.”

Produced in association with AccuWeather

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