Residents near Jockey’s Ridge receive ‘explosive’ Army letter

By on May 13, 2018


Several residents in Nags Head, particularly along N.C. 12, opened their mailboxes last week and were surprised by a letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that contained, among other information, the following:

“Available information indicates military munitions may be present on or near your property as a result of past munitions-related activities that Department of Defense conducted on this Formerly Used Defense Sites property. More specific information is enclosed.

“Should military munitions remain on this Formerly Used Defense Sites property, they are most likely below the ground surface; however, there is a possibility that some may have become partially or fully exposed.”

Scary stuff, but residents can breath easier as there is no real need to be concerned.

According to Billy Birdwell, senior public affairs specialist for the Army Corps Savannah District, which includes the Outer Banks, the letters are part of a process involving numerous sites that had been used for military target practice during World War II. The Corps is required by law to inform residents of potential hazards, no matter how insignificant the threat.

Click to read the entire letter.

The Corps sent a team to what is now designated the “Jockey’s Ridge Formerly Used Defense Site” and a survey uncovered no bombs, fragments or contamination to groundwater.

The region was used by as many as seven U.S. Navy air bases during World War II for bombing practice because of its remoteness and sparse population. A similar letter was sent to Southern Shores residents in 2016, and the town produced a guide about munitions that could be found.

Birdwell said nothing triggered the most recent warning, although in years before the 2007 site study, small practice bombs had been uncovered within the area that is now Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

In recent years, bomb fragments and unexploded bombs have been uncovered in the area around the Army Corps Duck Research Pier as well as one site in what is now a Corolla subdivision. But Birdwell offered assurances that the type of bombs used for practice at Jockey’s Ridge was “small stuff” and not similar to the bombs used in Duck and Corolla.

The Jockey’s Ridge FUDS is one of many sites the Corps has identified as former target practice areas for naval aviators during World War II. The Corps sends teams to each area to look for evidence of unexploded ordinance, craters, bomb fragments, distressed vegetation and groundwater contamination. The teams use maps stored in military archives that reveal the areas used for such activities.

A report is released for each area after inspections are completed and letters are sent informing residents their property is within the FUDS target area and may contain ordinance or fragments.

See the full report »

Birdwell said the team found no evidence of any unexploded ordinance or any traces of fragments or contamination at the Jockey’s Ridge FUDS.

He said the letters are required by law to be sent to residents, but they are more akin to “finishing a compliance checklist” than an actual warning of any imminent or significant danger.

This photo depicts the boundary the Corps identified as part of the Jockey’s Ridge FUDS.

A map labels the actual known target location, which can be seen at the center of the circle near U.S. 158.

The rest of the defined area encompasses the entirety of Jockey’s Ridge State Park reaching almost to the Albemarle Sound on the west and several hundred yards into the Atlantic Ocean on the east, including numerous residential and commercial properties.

The northern boundary includes a few residential properties in the North Ridge subdivision and to the south, a few residential properties on W. Soundside Road. Two other possible target locations are labeled and denoted by an arrow to the south in the non-vegetated area of the park.

The red circles with black dots indicate areas where soil samples and field observations were conducted.

Black dots depict areas where visual observations were taken with no soil or water sampling while the blue triangles indicate where surface water samples were taken.

The blue lines are the path taken by the field site team during the study, which covered a much wider territory than the areas thought to be possible drop sites for practice bombs.

The report said that during WWII training exercises, the Navy dropped three-pound “miniature practice bombs” and that prior to the field studies 30 such bombs had been found within the park boundaries and four more were discovered in a park maintenance shed during the study.

There is no explanation in the letters sent to residents as to why there was a 10-year lag between the actual study and the report’s release in 2008 and the mailing of the warning letters to Nags Head residents.

The four bombs found during the 2007 study were determined to be inert, and these practice bombs (officially known as AN-Mk23) contained a black powder spotting charge that set off an observable flash and smoke signature so observers could gauge the accuracy of the drops.

The bombs themselves contained no explosives, but the spotting charges were considered enough of a hazard to warrant the field studies. The Army Corps report indicates if any bombs are found, the public should refrain from handling the ordinance and report their findings to public safety officials.

Recent posts in this category

Recent posts in this category

Comments are closed.