The storm surge from Hurricane Irene broke thru Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in several places, causing extensive damage to roads and beaches. Along North Carolina Highway 12, the surge cut gaps in the highway that could take weeks to repair.
About six miles south of Herbert C. Bonner Bridge the storm cut a huge swath between the Pamlico Sound and the ocean creating a new inlet that wiped out a large section of the highway.
The inlet blew out from the Sound side as a result of significant storm surge is expected continue getting wider and deeper in the days ahead until a balance is reached between the volume of water in the Sound and tidal flows from the ocean.
"It appears at this early stage of damage assessment that Pea Island may have suffered to worst of Irene's impact compared to other refuges along coastal North Carolina," said Mike Bryant, the project leader for the refuge complex that includes Pea Island.