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Beachfront home collapses into the ocean in Outer Banks, N.C. town

Photo of collapsed one-story house in Rodanthe.National Park Service

An oceanfront home collapsed into the ocean Monday in the Outer Banks community of Rodanthe, N.C., the fourth seaside home in the small barrier island town in the past year to fall victim to coastal erosion.

The one-story home tumbled into the waves as howling winds and heavy surf pounded the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, debris scattered on the shore as the structure rested on its side, the National Park Service said in a press release.

Officials said they were communicating with the owner of the house to “coordinate the removal of the house and all related debris.”

Visitors were advised to use caution when participating in activities on the beach and in the ocean near East Point Drive due to the debris.


The Island Free Press posted video of the collapsed home.

The Outer Banks is one of many coastal areas threatened by rising sea levels and erosion. Three other oceanfront homes fell into the ocean between February and May last year, according to the National Park Service. Two happened in one day.

Debris from the February collapse washed up on the shore of Hatteras Island, resulting in cleanup efforts.

After the incidents last year, David Hallac, the superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, warned that more houses were likely to collapse in the near future.

“We proactively reached out to homeowners along Ocean Drive in Rodanthe after the first house collapse and recommended that actions be taken to prevent collapse and impacts,” he said.

The latest home to give way was unoccupied at the time, the Island Free Press reported. The three-bedroom, two-bath house was built in 1976. Noah Gillam, planning director for Dare County, told the Washington Post that the power was cut last May after officials deemed it unsafe to live in.


Erosion is worsening along significant stretches of the Outer Banks. In the last two decades, the National Park Service estimates that parts of Rodanthe have retreated more than 200 feet and the area is “currently losing about 13 feet of beach per year,” according to the Yale School of Environment.

In the past year, multiple meetings have been held about the situation, the Island Free Press reported. Some residents have rushed to move their homes.

Jenni Koontz, a photographer who spent several months documenting one of the homes that collapsed, told WTKR last year while the situation is “overwhelming and dramatic,” it comes with “living here on the sandbar.”

Danny Couch, county commissioner, told the Washington Post that the loss of the beachfront homes is “painful” to witness.

The weather on Monday was not remarkable, he said, simply a “garden variety nor’easter” that resulted in a rougher ocean than normal — a common occurrence during the winter.

“But that’s all it’s going to take to knock some of these houses down,” Couch told the Post.

It’s a future other communities along the East Coast, particularly those on Cape Cod are grappling with. As residents have built seawalls or otherwise fortified their bluffs to prevent erosion, environmental advocates have warned residents may soon have to consider a “managed retreat” from the water’s edge.

A home that had perched precariously on a grassy bluff on Martha’s Vineyard was demolished last month, underscoring the struggle between coastal homeowners and the churning tides.


When it was first constructed, the property on Chappaquiddick was 1,600 feet north of the shoreline. By February, it was surrounded by sandbags and lapping water, forcing the homeowner to have it razed.

“Managed retreat will unfortunately become increasingly common for many coastal properties,” said Nicie Panetta, interim chief executive and president of the Trustees of Reservations.

In Rodanthe, county officials and the park service said there is currently no long-term strategy for the homes or the eroding beach, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

Shannon Larson can be reached at Follow her @shannonlarson98.