NC’s new island survived Irma, but park service renews warning not to swim there

Channel between sandbar and Cape Point at low tide on August 31.
Channel between sandbar and Cape Point at low tide on August 31.

North Carolina’s newly formed island survived the winds and waves of Hurricane Irma and, in fact, grew a little.

That’s according to Virginia businessman Kenneth Barlow, who recently filed a Quit Claim Deed asserting his ownership of Shelly Island. He says the island, which sits off Cape Point, is at least 100 acres now and still growing. Barlow credits that growth to a dredging operation in nearby Buxton.

Shelly Island also continues to be a tourist attraction, which is why the Cape Hatteras National Seashore recently sent out another warning for visitors attempting to reach the island without a boat or floatation device.

People should not try swimming or wading to the island, says the park service.

“Due to larger swells, higher tides, and increased rip current threats from recent weather events, there have been ocean rescues and swimmers in distress between Cape Point and the sandbar,” said the statement issued the first week of September.

“Visitors should be aware that the ocean water level is no longer ankle deep at low tide. At high tide, appropriate flotation is needed to safely cross the channel between Cape Point and the sandbar. Currents in the channel can be strong.”

Barlow, who lives near Richmond, has been visiting the island in recent weeks to plant sea oats. He says he intends to plant 1,000 sea oats and grasses next week, to stabilized the sands.

The island was first spotted on NASA satellite photos in November and has continued to grow. However, coastal experts believe it could be washed away by a big storm.

​Barlow filed his claim with the Dare County Register of Deeds on Aug. 7. However, the Dare County officials believe the island either belongs to the state or to the National Park Service.