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6th house in 4 years collapses into Atlantic Ocean along North Carolina's Outer Banks

5/29: CBS Morning News
5/29: CBS Morning News 20:15

Another house has collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean along North Carolina's coast, the sixth to fall along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore's beaches in the past four years, according to U.S. National Park Service officials.

About one mile of the beach along Ocean Drive in Rodanthe on the Outer Banks was closed after Tuesday's collapse. The national seashore urged visitors to avoid beaches north of Sea Haven Drive into the southern portion of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, since dangerous debris could be on the beach and in the water as the cleanup continued.

An unoccupied private home in Rodanthe, North Carolina, just south of the Rodanthe Pier, collapsed into the ocean on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Corinne Saunders/The Virginian-Pilot via AP

National seashore employees moved dozens of pickup truckloads of debris to a nearby parking lot on Tuesday and Wednesday, the public was invited to help employees and a contractor hired by the owner of the house, which was unoccupied when it fell.

Two years ago, a video of a beach house sinking into the Atlantic in Rodanthe, on the Outer Banks, went viral on social media. The same year, a NASA report warned that sea levels along the U.S. could rise as much as 12 inches by 2050, with the Southeast and Gulf coasts seeing the most change. The report said 13 million Americans could be displaced by the year 2100.

A study published in Nature Communications last year found that since 2010, sea level rise along the nation's Southeast and Gulf coasts had reached rates that were "unprecedented in at least 120 years." 

"These rapid rates are unprecedented over at least the 20th century and they have been three times higher than the global average over the same period," said Tulane professor Sönke Dangendorf, who led the study. 

A one-story beach cottage fell into the Atlantic Ocean on the Outer Banks on March 13, 2023, the fourth home to collapse into the sea on Hatteras Island in that past year. Daniel Pullen/The Virginian-Pilot/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

North Carolina's coast is almost entirely made up of narrow, low-lying barrier islands that are increasingly vulnerable to storm surges and to being washed over from both the bay and the sea as the planet warms. As sea levels rise, these islands typically move toward the mainland, frustrating efforts to hold properties in place. 

Some beaches in the state have been losing about 13 feet a year, according to the National Park Service.

Rising Oceans Are Rapidly Eroding the Vulnerable Shoreline of North Carolina's Outer Banks
Atlantic Ocean waves erode the beach behind 12 beachfront houses on sand-covered Seagull Street on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on January 7, 2023, in Rodanthe. Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

In 1999, the historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, located on one of the state's barrier islands, was moved nearly 3,000 feet inland, a warning of the dramatic climatic changes to come.

Tuesday's house collapse came days after severe weather battered North Carolina and 6 other states, leaving a trail of death and destruction. 

—Ben Tracy and Li Cohen contributed reporting.

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