A new weather buoy (NDBC Station 41013) has been deployed just offshore of Frying Pan Light Tower at the seaward end of Frying Pan Shoals off Cape Fear. The buoy, which is a red 3 meter discus buoy and will also serve as a navigation buoy, was placed on site on Monday November 10 and is on-line and transmitting through the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) web site. This is a precursor to the cancellation of the current weather station (FPSN7) that is broadcasting from Frying Pan Shoals Tower, which is scheduled for deconstruction as soon as the contract is awarded and weather permits.
Frying Pan light Tower has been judged as unsafe for helicopters to land to deliver crews for maintenance work and is scheduled to be decommissioned. The date is uncertain at this time, as the contract has not been awarded. Weather will also play a major part in the deconstruction of the 40 year old structure, which is located 30 miles offshore of Cape Fear. The new weather buoy has been placed on site so there will be no lapse in weather reporting once the work begins.
Thanks to the efforts of the Long Bay Artificial Reef Association, Frying Pan Light Tower will be given a second life as NC artificial reef AR 400. As the tower is disassembled, the pieces will be placed around the current location to create the reef. The legs will be cut to allow a minimum of 24 feet of water above them.
A similar situation also exists at Diamond Shoals Light Tower off Cape Hatteras, except that the weather station on Diamond Shoals Light Tower had quit broadcasting. The weather buoy was placed there earlier this year to allow for the continued reporting of the weather conditions. Bids and contracts are also being processed for the deconstruction of Diamond Shoals Light Tower, which will be broken up and placed on several nearshore artificial reefs off Hatteras Inlet.
By having both Frying Pan Shoals weather stations on line at the same time, boaters and fishermen can compare the readings to get a feel for how the new reports will relate to the reports we have used for years. The weather station on the light tower is approximately 150 feet above the ocean, while the weather instruments on the buoy are only about 12 feet up, so some differences are to be expected.
During the blow last week, several fishermen reported that everything checked out the same except for the wind. They said that the buoy was pretty consistently reporting about 5 to 7 knots less wind than the tower and occasionally the wind direction would also vary a few points. It will be interesting to see how they compare in calm weather.
You can access the Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower weather station at http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.phtml?$station=fpsn7 and the new Frying Pan Shoals Weather Buoy at http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.phtml?station=41013.