Thursday, June 20, 2024

Storms, rising seas are growing threats to Portsmouth Village in North Carolina » Yale Climate Connections

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For centuries, ships have sailed past North Carolina’s picturesque Cape Lookout Lighthouse. And in colonial times, they often stopped in Portsmouth Village.

Today, the lighthouse and village are part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Many of the buildings have been preserved. But increasingly, extreme weather puts them at risk.

In 2019, Hurricane Dorian damaged dozens of historical buildings.

And while tourists can still visit the old Portsmouth Village, rising seas are creeping in.

Seekamp: “There can be standing water in the village nearly any day of the year.”

Erin Seekamp is a coastal expert at North Carolina State University. By gathering community input, she’s helping decision-makers weigh the trade-offs of various strategies to protect the historical buildings.

For example, officials have placed temporary barriers between the lighthouse and the ocean and installed floating devices to break up waves.

This provides protection from storm damage but detracts from the site’s historic character.

As the climate changes, more tough decisions await.

Seekamp: “Should we be elevating these buildings? Should we be moving them around on the landscape? … What changes are acceptable?”

Navigating these questions is tough, but critical to keeping Cape Lookout’s history alive.

Reporting credit: Ethan Freedman / ChavoBart Digital Media

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