River depth hits record low

Published 6:46 pm Friday, March 2, 2018

Strong winds from the west Thursday night into Friday caused the Pamlico River to drop to record low levels on Friday, leaving some boats in the Washington Waterfront Docks sitting on dry ground.

According to Washington Dockmaster Rick Brass, the water depth gauge on the U.S. Highway 17 Bridge read 5.43 feet below normal as of 2 p.m. on Friday. The previous record low, set in January of 1989, was 4.7 feet below normal.

HESTIA: The hull of The Hestia, of Beverly, Massachusetts, was fully exposed on Friday afternoon at the Washington waterfront docks. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

“This is the lowest that the river has been here in Washington since NOAA started keeping records,” Brass said.

While the morning hours saw some boats listing on their lines, by Friday afternoon, some vessels at the docks were sitting on dry ground. A number of boats moored on the southern side of Castle Island were also beached.

“We have a couple of the boats that are sitting in slips that are normally eight to nine feet deep that are actually sitting on the bottom or keeling over,” Brass said.

ON THE ROCKS: A boat rests on the rocks at the Washington waterfront docks on Friday. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

Brass went on to say that his crew had been on the waterfront since 6:30 a.m. Friday, doubling and replacing lines and putting in extra fenders in an effort to try to protect the boats docked there.

Adding to the flurry of activity on the waterfront, the dock area also saw considerable foot traffic Friday, with many spectators coming to take pictures of the boats in the harbor.

“We’ve had a huge amount of traffic down here,” Brass said. “It seems like everybody in Washington has driven down here to take pictures. It’s almost a traffic jam down here.”

SPECTATORS: Low water levels brought a wave of spectators to the Washington Waterfront on Friday. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

While the low water levels created a headache for boat owners and dockworkers alike, Brass said that only one boat had suffered significant damage at the Washington docks. In a small silver lining, Brass reports that his staff has been able to clear some debris from the waterfront’s harder-to-reach areas.

“It actually has allowed us, because the water is low, to get to some debris that is normally below water,” Brass said. “So it’s actually been a little bit beneficial to us.”

SITTING ON SAND: A pair of boats sit with their keels in the sand in Bath. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

The National Weather Service forecasts strong winds continuing through Saturday. Sustained winds are predicted to taper off to 12-16 mph on Sunday and 10-12 mph on Monday.

Beaufort County Emergency Services encourages the public to be mindful of both abnormal water levels and the possibility of downed trees and power outages throughout the weekend.