North Carolina

Outer Banks lighthouse went dark from Florence. It’s reopening to ‘celebrate’ recovery

Cape Lookout Lighthouse will open to the public for three days, starting Friday.
Cape Lookout Lighthouse will open to the public for three days, starting Friday.

The historic Cape Lookout Lighthouse stopped operating after being damaged when Hurricane Florence hit the Outer Banks on Sept. 14, says the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

On Friday, the National Park Service intends to reopen it to the public for three days, in a symbolic move “to celebrate the progress towards recovery from Hurricane Florence.” Climbers will be allowed inside Oct. 5 through 8 at no cost, officials said in a press release.

Richard Neal, a software sales engineer from south Charlotte, is now the principal owner of the Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower. Neal bought the tower at government auction for $85,000 in 2010. He shows what it's like during Hurricane Arthur.

The lighthouse is typically closed to the public this time of year, which is considered the off-season, officials said.

“Originally, the public climb season was scheduled to end on September 16, but was canceled due to Hurricane Florence,” said a National Park Service statement. “This will be the final opportunity for the public to climb the lighthouse in 2018.”

The National Park Service did not give details of how Hurricane Florence damaged the lighthouse, saying only: “The U.S. Coast Guard is repairing the Cape Lookout Lighthouse (which is) currently not working.”

Park service officials did say, however, that the lighthouse was among the structures that had to be assessed for stabilization after the storm, “including installing tarps on roofs.”

The lighthouse has withstood countless storms since being completed in 1859, as well as an attempt by Confederate troops to destroy it in 1864, says the National Park Service.

“Their attempt to blow up the lighthouse is unsuccessful, however the explosion (did) destroy the lighthouse oil supply and damaged the iron stairs,” says a park service’s history of the lighthouse.

The Coast Guard maintains responsibility for the 163-foot tall structure’s “optics,” while the park service is responsible for the building itself, a Coast Guard official told McClatchy.

Cape Lookout National Seashore suffered a list of hurricane-related damage at such sites as the Harkers Island Visitor Center and historic Portsmouth Village. The hurricane’s winds and storm surge also “filled in” the Long Point Harbor with trash and debris, making it impossible for ferries to reach the dock, officials said.

On Thursday, the Island Express Ferry will resume routes to Cape Lookout Lighthouse and to Shackleford Banks, said the park service.

A herd of about 100 wild mustangs lives on the Shackleford Banks and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses reported last week that it is still doing a head count. “Initial reports are positive — the herd survived,” said an update on Facebook. “Horses identified are logged, but those not located will remain on the roll until sighted or determined missing.”

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Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs
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