HATTERAS ISLAND, N.C. (WNCT) — North Carolina Highway 12 is the lone road linking the islands and peninsulas of the Outer Banks. It connects some of the richest and fastest-growing towns in North Carolina. It is also considered one of the most vulnerable roadways in America.

The towns it connects along its 148-mile path all face a similar problem: they’re on borrowed time. Dr. Reide Corbette, head of East Carolina University’s Coastal Studies Institute, explaind more in the above video.

The town of Rodanthe has become a poster child for sea level rise from climate change in recent years. Like most of the northern Outer Banks, its eastward-facing shores bear the full brunt of the unrelenting Atlantic Ocean. A 2022 viral video shows the ocean reclaiming a beachfront home in Rodanthe during a storm. 

Just up the road in Nags Head, satellite imagery shows where beachfront homes used to stand, in a line that the ocean was never going to let hold. Attempts to engineer around the retreating coastline have cost Dare County tens of millions of dollars.

With storms getting stronger and more frequent, solutions for Outer Banks homeowners are becoming harder to come by.