Hurricane Irene Aftermath
August 29, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...
UPDATE:  Post Hurricane Irene information and news travels slowly to islanders


Without any type of phone service, Internet, electricity and warranted concerns about how long gasoline will be available for both generators and vehicles, people on the island probably know less about the damages and consequences of Hurricane Irene than folks away from here.

Yesterday, my efforts to see the tri-village area of Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo were hampered by low fuel and fears that Highway12 was covered with saltwater and debris. 

My trip to the area this morning revealed that the storm’s fury was much more intense and devastating in the northern villages than to southern Hatteras and Ocracoke.

The previous high-water mark in Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo (RWS) was set by the Super Storm which bombarded the entire east coast in March of 1993.  Hurricane Irene superseded that bench mark by 16 inches according to Waves resident Michael Halminski.

“I have the hash mark to prove it,” says Halminski as he points to a mark on his house from that time.  “The wave action this time was so much more.  I could see 6-foot waves breaking in my yard from the sound from my upstairs bedroom window.  It looked like the ocean but it was the sound.”

Halminski also had recorded the barometric pressure from March 1993 at 978.  On Saturday night, it was 964.

Through these northern villages, there was evidence of soundside flooding.  Eel grass topped 6- to 8- foot tall chain link fences.  Tall vegetation had been flattened by waters rushing in from the west, leaving a trail of docks, mattresses, Jet Skis and gas tanks. 

Cemetery tombstones were knocked over.  A roadside vegetable stand was on the wrong side of the road and lying on its side.  Wooden fences and walkways were mangled and twisted.

The building that housed Leonardo’s Pizza and Reef, a T-shirt and beach supplies retail store, suffered major damage.  The entire back of the store which backed up to the Pamlico Sound was pushed in by the intense soundside flooding.  The water rushed through the store and blew out the windows and door on the front of the building, littering the parking lot and yard with ruined merchandise.

North Beach Campground in Rodanthe sustained tremendous damage to many of the camping trailers parked here.

According to Justin O’Neal who helps run this family business, the dunes held during the long ocean battering. 

“The seas got kinda rough but not as much as we have experienced here before,” O’Neal explains.

Like many islanders, he felt that the area was out of danger because the winds slowly changed direction.  Significant flooding generally happens with a sudden change in wind direction, which was unlike Saturday night’s event.

“I kept watching the barometer drop,” says O’Neal.  “That’s when I knew it was going to be bad.”

He watched the sound start to come in and the level raised 5 feet in 15 minutes.  The sound water didn’t slosh back, but the level continued to rise until there was a raging river roaring down the streets of the campground.  The dune, weakened by the many hours of east wind, crumbled under the determined soundside waters, causing many trailers and campers to be swept into the ocean.  Many of the units left behind are heavily damaged.

The campground itself experienced significant structural damage.  The concrete road was undermined and missing near the ocean.  O’Neal was shaken by his experience with Hurricane Irene.

The trip north ended abruptly at Mirlo Beach, which is where Highway 12 was undermined then buckled, first by the ocean then by the sound.  At the end of the damaged stretch of road was a breach in the dune with water flowing uninterrupted to the sound.

A small inlet flowed near where the famous Serendipity House stood until January, 2010, when it was relocated about a half mile south.

The houses on the southbound lane near the inlet looked to be in peril, and already one of them was seriously listing.  The electric poles were still in one piece but bent over towards the ocean.

Looking more towards the sound were the ashes where the house that was built to look like a lighthouse once stood.  This house, which was named, Sentinel-On-Pamlico, had quickly burned to the ground during the height of the soundside assault.  The owners barely escaped with only the clothes on their backs.  The gasoline powered generator is thought to be the cause of the devastating fire.

A few miles further north is a much larger inlet flowing near the old ranger station on Pea Island.  There are smaller dune breaches in this area, too.

There is no speculation yet on how long and when repairs will begin on Highway 12 which is the lifeline to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

Dare County Commissioner Allen Burrus said in a radio interview that divers have yet to inspect the Bonner Bridge.  Vehicles won’t be allowed to travel across the bridge until a safety inspection is completed. 

There was a lot of change reported in the size of the channels in Oregon Inlet.  The area that was a popular fishing area and accessible for four-wheel drive vehicles is now an island.

Oregon Inlet Marina, which is located in the shadow of the bridge, sustained serious damage as a result of Hurricane Irene.

To the south, a visual inspection of Ocracoke Island from an airplane revealed that miles of Highway 12 between the village and the ferry docks were covered in sand from the flattened dunes.  DOT is currently working to clear the sand. 

Some of the ferry boats are in place at both Ocracoke and Hatteras but are not running at this time.

In Buxton, gas lines formed quickly as two gas stations got their gas pumps running with the help of a generator.  Many residents and businesses have powered their homes with generators since Saturday morning.  Cars and trucks lined the road in both directions at the open stations.
The power was restored to parts of the island on Monday around 5 p.m.

Stay tuned for more updates, stories of survival and photos of Hurricane Irene.


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