Hurricane Irene Aftermath
August 31, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...
Three days after Hurricane Irene makes a mess of Hatteras Island
....WITH SLIDE SHOW

By ANNE C. BOWERS

The ugly realities of Hurricane Irene become more evident everyday as Hatteras Island works towards recovering from this huge storm. 

All of the once green vegetation is now dead and falling to the ground, beaten to death by winds that gusted to 88 mph on Saturday morning at 8:51 at Billy Mitchell Airfield .  The ground is covered in a smelly muck brought in by the immense soundside flooding. 

Piles of debris, ruined furniture, and appliances accumulate along Highway 12, ready for the day when Dare County will collect them all.  Considering the crumpled condition of the only highway on and off the island, that day could be a long way off.

At this point, locals look for and need signs of normalcy in their day-to-day existence.  In Buxton, spirits were encouraged yesterday when Angelo’s Pizza opened for dinner, and the road signs in front Diamond Shoals and Captain's Table restaurants announced they would be opening the following day.

The lines of cars waiting for gasoline were gone.  A lonely brown UPS truck was making some deliveries, mostly medical supplies to the pharmacy and medical center.

Islanders are acting like their grandparents used to.  Cars stop in the middle of the road so the drivers can talk to each through rolled-down windows.  The people behind them are not really being bothered or inconvenienced by this small-town behavior.  

Every passerby gets a wave.  The women hug, and the men shake hands.  Tears flow freely.  After all, we have something to be grateful for – we survived the storm and some of us even had electricity.

Driving a little north to Avon, it was harder to find that normal feeling.  The Food Lion parking lot was completely closed sealed off by yellow tape draped across all the entrances.  There were no cars in the parking lot and not a single business was open in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.

The traffic lights were dead, and the road still underwater in places.  Vehicles manned with the National Guard in uniform rolled up and down the highway, driving faster than residents.  

A caravan of vehicles with red letters that said “the Salvation Army” turned down the road into old Avon village to set up free food for anyone at the Avon Volunteer Fire Department.  They arrived by ferry that came from Stumpy Point to Hatteras because that’s how emergency supplies and personal get to the island these days.

The Salvation Army brought enough food to provide three meals a day for three days.  Breakfast biscuits would be made in the morning and hot dogs or burgers served for lunch.  A local restaurant donated a significant amount of fish that would be served for dinner.

Across the street from the fire station, crews from the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative worked with colleagues from the statewide association of electric cooperatives who came to help install the newly delivered megawatt diesel generator that arrived earlier by ferry boat.  It’s the size of a trailer and will bring power to the village of Avon.  As hard as the crew worked, the small village spent another night in the dark.

Continuing north to the tri-villages, it was obvious that it would be years before many of its inhabitants would fully recover.  The area’s residents are struggling to regroup because so many are without their homes anymore.  Some were left with only a vehicle or just the clothes on their back.

Decades worth of family memories were scattered across the landscape when the rushing waters from the Pamlico Sound took them so violently.

The Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Center was already the town’s gathering place.  Word was just getting out that help was available.  There was a team of Salvation Army personnel here, too, ready to serve up three meals a day.  Spaghetti was tonight’s special.

Dare County Social Services was on hand to help with special needs cases.  The Red Cross would be arriving in a day or so.  It won’t be long before FEMA will be around to start the application process for people needing emergency disaster food stamps. 

The Parks and Recreation team was here setting up a free transportation system, using their vans to help move people around the villages since so many people in this area lost their vehicles.  This storm was 16 inches above the high water mark left by the March super storm of 1993.  Apparently, there weren’t many safe spots for cars on Saturday night.  

Temporary ferry service has been running between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe, a two-hour ride, to bring in emergency supplies to the area.  However, the ferry channel is now shallow in spots because of the hurricane and on Tuesday, the ferries were running at high tide only. 

The channel between Stumpy Point and Hatteras village has been more reliable, but is a much longer voyage at three hours and 20 minutes.  According to a spokeswoman for Dare County’s Control Group, it’s up to the ferry boat captain to pick the route based on the conditions when leaving Stumpy Point.

The services the local firefighters, police, and EMS personnel were extolled by the locals for the services they provided to the public without regard to their own personal loss.  

At the north end of the villages, the skies were buzzing as multiple helicopters and airplanes circled the Mirlo Beach area where the highway ends so several state and federal officials could survey the damaged road from the air.

Many dramatic changes had taken place in the 24 hours since Monday.  The electric poles were now standing straight.  The CHEC linemen were working quickly to repair the electric lines because this area, too, had a megawatt generator being brought online just down the road.  By nightfall, some of the area would have power.

Century Link was stringing new fiber-optic lines, using a kayak and a couple of Jet Skis to help carry the line across the stream of water that flowed between the ocean and sound, which at low tide didn’t look too menacing.

A few miles north, a growing inlet was the main attraction.  Until the highway is repaired, tourism is dead on the island.  Highway 12 is the economic lifeline to Hatteras Island, and without it, some will not completely survive Hurricane Irene.


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