If you're headed down to Cape Hatteras for the holiday weekend, you're in luck: a new sandbar island has just emerged.
This is no spit of land, either: It's a mile long, off Cape Point. Its size and shape, though, are at the mercy of the tides — local experts say it could disappear just as quickly as it showed up.
That, to some extent, is the story of North Carolina's long strip of barrier islands, which have for years been under pressure from various stressors, including tourism and environmental issues (sample headline: "Development and climate change are causing the islands to slowly vanish.") This new piece of land just magnifies those tensions — look away, and it might be gone.
For now, though, the island is open to visitors — though safety adminstrators on the ground are asking interested parties to resist the urge to swim the short, riptide-plagued gully between the main island and the newcomer, for the moment dubbed "Shelly Island." They're asking visitors to kayak instead.