In this photograph from September 15, 2005, two people walk past a house "wading" in the ocean on stilts that used to be on land.
With an average elevation of only 5 feet (1.5 meters), this long, skinny island is as little as 165 feet (50 meters) wide in some places.
Repeatedly damaged by hurricanes, the island is home to 3,500 people and hosts nearly ten times as many summer visitors. All would have to be evacuated along a single, low-lying road in the event of an emergency.
Duke University researcher Orrin Pilkey calls it the second-most dangerous barrier island in the U.S. Southeast, surpassed only by Alabama's Dauphin Island.