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U.S. Weather Bureau Station Hatteras Welcome Center

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by Gail Clifford MD (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and photographer traveling the world, often following my daughter. Visit our site at and follow us on Instagram @ABLETravelPhoto
Published June 30th 2022
OBX, NC, North Carolina, Hatteras Island, US Weather Bureau Hatteras, Outer Banks Visitor Bureau
US Weather Bureau and Now Outer Bank Visitor Bureau

During your visit to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, specifically, Hatteras Island, make the time to stop at the historic sunny yellow building not far from the Ferry to Ocracoke, the U.S. Weather Bureau Station, and now the area's Visitor Bureau. Wouldn't it be nice to know the weather before you go? Well, on this day we knew we were still dealing with a nor'easter. Our horseback ride on the beach was canceled due to downed trees and telephone and internet disruption, but the flood waters had receded from the roads.

OBX, map of the Outer Banks, NC, North Carolina, Hatteras Island, US Weather Bureau Hatteras, Outer Banks Visitor Bureau
Map of the Outer Banks North Carolina

The name "Hatterask" was first marked on an English map in 1585 honoring the Hatterask Native Americans who lived on the barrier island during England's initial forays into North American colonization.

Built in 1901, this building contains eight rooms on two floors, with a view on the roof where current National Park Rangers can conduct star-gazing events. At the time, it was occupied by the weatherman's family.

OBX, Knotical Guide, NC, North Carolina, Hatteras Island, US Weather Bureau Hatteras, Outer Banks Visitor Bureau
Knotical Guide of the Weather

From January 1, 1902, until it was decommissioned in 1946, the Weather Bureau operated to provide data about Atlantic Ocean conditions from this (then) isolated and remote location. The combination of the Gulf current and the Labrador current off the coast creates storms.

In 1946, it was converted into living quarters for Weather Bureau personnel and in 1952, it was turned over to the US. Coast Guard, formerly the U.S. Life Saving Service.
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The most famous event of the Weather Bureau Station's existence is likely to be the receipt of the first distress call from the RMS Titanic. "On April 14, 1912, the Hatteras Weather Bureau Station picked up the following message at around 11:25 p.m.: "CQD CQD CQD CQD CQD CQD." This was the marine distress call, based on Marconi International Marine Communication Company's 1905 Circular 57. "CQ" identified alert and "D" to indicate distress. Wireless operators at the U.S. Weather Bureau recognized this to mean the ship was in distress. Horace Gaskins and Richard Dailey received more specific information from the Titanic, "Have struck iceberg." And forwarded the telegraph to David Sarnoff in New York. He dismissed the telegraph as a drunken prank. The original telegraph is on display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.

From 1958 to 1976, marine invertebrate research was the primary focus of those that used the building, first from Duke University and then from North Carolina State University. It became listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978.

OBX, Visitor Bureau Interior, NC, North Carolina, Hatteras Island, US Weather Bureau Hatteras, Outer Banks Visitor Bureau
Spacious Interior Hatteras Outer Bank Visitor Bureau

Today, the building is operated in partnership with the National Park Service as an Outer Banks Visitor Bureau and historical site. During our visit, we met a Bureau employee native to the Outer Banks with stories about her grandparents' life on the island, long before utilities were moved inside the home, her mother's shock at moving from New York, and her experience sighting movie stars like Richard Gere and Diane Lane when filming locally. Her description of the isolation of life on the island off-season and the challenges that occur even today were insightful.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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Where: 57190 Kohler Rd, Hatteras, NC 27943, United States
Cost: Free admission
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