National Geographic : 2012 Jun
These little tempests serve as reminders that at any moment the fickle winds can hurl a boat onto the shoals. (As the wrecks of a couple thousand ships along the OBX coastline attest.) Or possibly fling you into the sky. (They carried Orville and Wilbur Wright into immortality.) Living here is a straight-up bet on the weather. The islands are highly mobile piles of sand, and the Atlantic gnaws at them little by little. Moves them around. They're not going anywhere for a while, but building a house on the waterfront should not be considered an investment for your grandchildren. Major hurricanes and tropical storms blow through every few years, sometimes cleaving new inlets through the islands. My neighbors Billy and Sandra Stinson lost their historic summer cottage to Irene last year. It had been in Billy's family for more than 50 years and was one of the few remaining original Nags Head houses. It had been built on stilts over dry land, but slowly the waters of the sound had crept beneath it. Billy and Sandra are determined to rebuild. It's a classic gambler's move---doubling down on their weather bet. Why would anyone live with such a lack of security? Because we're all gamblers, thinking our luck will hold. And because when there's no hurricane, life is at its best. It's that simple. ---David Alan Harvey My neighbors Billy and Sandra Stinson watch a squall roll over their house on Roanoke Sound. Hurricane Irene destroyed the place last August.