August 26, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...



UPDATE:  On the eve of Hurricane Irene, islanders ponder whether to stay or go

By ANNE C. BOWERS

Islanders were admittedly a little nervous about Hurricane Irene all week.  Once this storm made a right turn at Florida, Hatteras became the target for landfall.  Forecasts read like an obituary for this little island with phrases like “It’s the big one,” “Significant ocean and soundside flooding,” and “There could be multiple inlets.”

Not the best way to start the week.  

Visitors had their vacations cut short when evacuation orders were given for Ocracoke Island on Tuesday.  The evacuation orders for Hatteras Island and Dare County came two days later.  

Those of us who live here have developed our own routine for preparing for a hurricane.  With the visitors gone, people quickly got busy protecting their homes, businesses, pets, and personal property from a potential direct hit from a Category 3, maybe 4, hurricane.

Time was on our side since the hurricane was predicted to hit Saturday evening.  People secured their property and made decisions whether to stay or go.  

By Friday morning, most had their storm prep complete and still had about a day to wait for the storm.  

The mood of the island lightened during the day as storm track predictions continued to edge Hurricane Irene’s path more to the west over mainland North Carolina, not the Pamlico Sound.  Even better, the storm’s intensity weakened and the weather pundits felt that it would make landfall now as a Category 2 hurricane, and perhaps even a Category 1.  Still a weather event to be taken seriously, but this was a significantly improved forecast for Hatteras Island.

Pam Rak said her sister struggled with the option of evacuating.  Her gut was telling her to go but her head was telling her to stay.  In the end, she stayed on the island.

For most people, evacuation isn’t about leaving, it’s about getting back.  After a storm, people can’t get back onto the island until local officials declare it safe  -- assuming that you can even get back to Dare County.  

Chyrel Austin, owner of Burger Burger in Buxton, evacuated last year in Hurricane Earl because she was fearful of water coming into her Frisco home, which sits low to the ground.  She sat in line for hours to get back onto the island, but eventually turned around after a long wait and went to Nags Head.  No water got into her house and she felt that the evacuation wasn’t worth the trouble.

As the storm got closer, there wasn’t a sense of panic around the island.  There weren’t many businesses open on Friday, but there were people out and about ,eating breakfast or lunch and getting last minute provisions.

Food Lion had remained open for 24 hours a day before the storm but was closed Friday.  The smaller family grocery stores, such as Conner’s Supermarket in Buxton and Burrus Red & White Supermarket in Hatteras village, were bustling and had plenty of groceries.  

John Couch at Car Quest in Buxton had a productive day selling gas and gas cans, spark plugs, and generator batteries.

“We have plenty of gasoline,” says Couch.  He went on to explain the importance of keeping the in-ground gas tanks relatively full during flooding to keep the tanks from floating up.  He will be open as long as the weather permits.  

Angelo’s Pizza in Buxton had an easy feeling as locals took their time to eat their lunch and chat with workers and patrons.

Lanie Gaskill, owner of Angelo’s Pizza, said it had been a pretty decent day.  Most people were off from work and prepared for Hurricane Irene.  With no pending obligations, customers were laid back and people were enjoying the slower pace.

Gaskill shrugged off the notion of pre-hurricane jitters.  

“Typical Hatteras.  Same normal hurricane routine,” she said.   

She and her family live in a safe area away from both the ocean and the sound.  Tuesday, the generator was pulled out.  Thursday, the pinball machines located at the restaurant were picked up and moved to safety.  The restaurant tends to get a lot of water in it during soundside flooding.  The refrigeration equipment was already elevated onto cinder blocks.  The tables would be moved up when the shop was closed for the day.  

The loss of business is always a concern for most business owners.  Chyrel Austin says, “Hopefully everybody can come back.  At least it’s not Labor Day.”

With her business secured for bad weather, Austin was looking forward to curling up with a good book for a couple of days.  After all, whether we wanted it or not, most of us got a couple of days off.

Not everyone was comfortable with the weather.  Cheri Johnson, manager of Uncle Eddy’s Ice Cream in Buxton, was smiling a nervous, uneasy smile.  

“The low pressure affects me,” feels Cheri.  “I feel funky, spacey, and have headaches.  Last year, I had a terrible time with Hurricane Earl but felt better as soon as it pulled away.”  This is only her second hurricane.

It’s difficult to evacuate when you have a business, four cats, two dogs, two parrots, and a puppy.  But, she would have left if the forecast hadn’t improved.

Austin has lived on the island most of her life and remembers the old days of weather forecasting.

“When I grew up, we just weathered the storm.  This hype has become too much and people depend on it now.  Do we really benefit from 24/7 storm coverage? I miss the old weather warning flags that once flew over Hatteras village.”

As the island waits for Hurricane Irene to make landfall, one thing is clear.  Life on Hatteras slows down before a hurricane.  It becomes a time of neighbor helping neighbor and families spending some down time together.

WEATHER INFORMATION

Latest watches, warnings, and local Hurricane Irene statements at http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/mhx/


MORE DARE COUNTY INFORMATION

The Dare County Control Group has activated the Joint Information Section (JIS) in response to Hurricane Irene.  All information regarding local government agencies in Dare County will be released through this source effective today, Wednesday, Aug. 24.
 
The JIS is a collaborative organization that encompasses the six municipal governments in Dare County, the National Park Service, the Dare County Sheriff’s Office, and the County of Dare, all of which have representatives on the Dare County Control Group.  The JIS is operated in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Manteo and managed by Dare County Emergency Management.
 
Outlets for information include the following:

The Dare County website at www.darenc.com
Government Access Channel 20, Charter Cable Channel 20
Releases e-mailed and faxed to local, regional, and national press outlets
Emergency Management Public Phone Inquiry Line at 252-475-5655
 
Other Important Numbers:

  • NCDOT inside North Carolina:  511
  • NCDOT outside North Carolina:  1-877-DOT-4YOU (1-877-638-4968)
  • North Carolina Highway Patrol:  1-800-441-6127
  • Virginia DOT:  1-800-367-7623
  • NC Ferry Service:  1-800-BY-FERRY
  • Dominion/North Carolina Power:  1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357)
  • Cape Hatteras Electric:  1-866-511-9862
  • Tideland Electric:  1-800-637-1079

North Carolina Attorney General (Price Gouging):  919-716-6000 (Outside NC) and 877-566-7226 (Inside NC)

No new reentry stickers are available at this time.  The previously issued stickers, for 2008/2009, are still valid.  Residents can also use a North Carolina driver’s license showing a Dare County address.  Property owners may present a Dare County tax bill with proper identification for reentry.
 
The public and media should dial 911 in case of emergency only.

CAPE HATTERAS ELECTRIC CO-OP INFORMATION

The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative is prepared to respond quickly to power outages that occur as a result of Hurricane Irene, which is forecast to make landfall along the North Carolina coast Saturday, Aug. 27.

CHEC crews stay prepared for storms of this magnitude by testing equipment and checking supplies locally to ensure power restoration can begin as soon as conditions are safe. At the Tarheel Electric Membership Association (TEMA) in Raleigh, a purchasing and supply co-op owned by the state's 26 electric cooperatives, employees are taking the necessary steps to coordinate restoration efforts.

CHEC's crews are committed to providing safe and reliable power, but outages caused by high winds and flooding are unpredictable. CHEC encourages the public to remember the following:

  • Portable generators are great to have in extended power outages, but they can be dangerous if installed or operated improperly. Only a licensed electrician should install one - do not attempt to do this yourself. Operate your generator in a clean, dry, well-ventilated space. Do not operate the unit in a confined area, such as garages, basements and storage sheds, which lack a steady exchange of air.
  • It is important to prepare an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, extra batteries, non-perishable food, a radio, blankets and bottled water in case of power outages.
  • Customers may experience flickering lights as wind speeds increase with the arrival of the storm. Sustained outages may follow. CHEC line crews will begin restoration efforts as soon as it is safe.
  • STAY AWAY from downed or sparking power lines and report any that you may see to your local electric cooperative IMMEDIATELY.
  • To report an outage, please call 866-511-9862.





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