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Shifting sands and houses: Rodanthe residents prepare to move homes away from rising ocean

It could cost up to $200,000, but some Outer Banks residents are making plans right now to move their homes farther from the ocean's threatening tide.

RODANTHE, N.C. — Editor's Note: Watch 13News Now at 6 p.m. tonight to watch our full report.

People on North Carolina's Outer Banks are getting creative to co-exist with rising sea levels.

Dare County Commissioners recently voted to close a small street in Rodanthe. That decision now allows homeowners to move their homes closer to the street and farther away from the threatening tide.

Waves consistently batter beachfront homes on Seagull Street in the Outer Banks town of Rodanthe. Wooden stilts bear the brunt of an ocean creeping ever closer.

“If you’re gonna stand up there with your hand out and say, ‘Back I say’ to the Atlantic Ocean, you’re gonna lose,” said Dare County Commissioner Danny Couch.

Couch represents this part of the island where beach erosion is an immediate concern. He doesn’t believe the 12 homes built along Seagull Street can stand much longer.

“If they stand where they are right now, on a three to five-year timetable, it’s not gonna happen, that’s my opinion,” Couch said. “If they can get eight [years], just the way it is, it’ll be a miracle.”

Credit: Dan Kennedy


Seagull Street is a private road just off NC12 Highway that was once owned by the Mirlo Beach Home Owners Association. Spending more than half its budget some years just keeping the street clean, the HOA was motivated to find a solution.

The HOA decided to deed the land to the homeowners, and the Dare County Commission sealed the deal when it voted unanimously to close the street during its September 6 meeting.

This will allow the property owners to move their houses westward on their lots to mitigate damages from erosion and storms.

“I mean, this is our last stand, there’s no place to go after this. Once we get these houses moved back, this is it,” said Gus Gusler, a homeowner on Seagull Street.

Gusler is an attorney by trade and he played a key role in getting to this point.

“It doesn’t do anybody any good if you’re a resident, taxpayer, business owner in Dare County to see houses floating out into the ocean,” Gusler said.

Gusler and his wife purchased their Seagull Street home in 2017. During that time, he blames nor’easters for destroying three of their cars and turning their driveway into an extension of the ocean.

Still, they love Hatteras Island and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

“We just have to do everything we can to preserve and protect the great thing we have down here,” he said. "This is one of the most beautiful places in the world."

Gusler and his neighbors signed 12 affidavits asking the Dare County Commission to support the closing of Seagull Street. Now that it is approved, homeowners must make plans and submit permits to have their homes moved, which could begin in the coming months.  

Gusler estimates he will spend between $150,000 to $165,000 to move his home farther down his property line.

It could get even more costly -- up to $200,000 he estimates -- if regulations force him to move his septic system.

Ideally, Gusler wants to move his home back 140 feet, connect his driveway to NC12, and plant some vegetation between his house and the ocean.

He hopes it buys another decade or two in his home.

“There’s no place to go after this. Once we get these houses moved back, this is it,” Gusler said.

Credit: Dan Kennedy


Officials on the Outer Banks have urged homeowners in direct danger to move to safer ground.

Their warnings were amplified after the ocean swallowed three homes earlier this year on Ocean Drive in Rodanthe.

Commissioner Couch applauds the proactive homeowners on Seagull Street, but worries it may just be delaying the inevitable.

“There’s a freight train out here called the Atlantic Ocean, and if you’re going to be on the railroad track, expect the express to come through your living room on a regular basis,” Couch said.

In this Rodanthe neighborhood, homeowners dream of more time by the sea, knowing nothing is guaranteed when the ocean is their backyard. 

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