Cape Hatteras National Seashore is on North Carolina's Outer Banks, a line of barrier islands in the Atlantic. Shifting shores have always been a part of life on the Outer Banks- in 1999, the historic Hatteras Lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet due to the encroaching shoreline. But climate change has exacerbated the effects of the ocean. Hatteras Island has eroded to only 25% of its original width as of 2014. A video of a house collapsing in Rodanthe went viral earlier this week. It was the second unoccupied beach house in Rodanthe to be claimed by the sea last weekend.
After one house collapsed in February, officials identified 11 other homes that were in danger. Both the houses that fell last week were on the list. The homeowners were warned to move their houses. But there's a strange economic quirk at work- insurance companies will not pay to have a house moved, but they will pay out after a disaster. The upshot is that the homeowners will be fine, but the debris scatters about and washes up on shore for miles around. Local communities are scrambling to clean up the shattered bits of house up and down the beach. Read more about the shifting sands of the Outer Banks at Smithsonian.