Hurricane Irene Aftermath
September 1, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...
Islanders get help from outside and each other in storm’s aftermath


All of the residents of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands yearn for their lives to be back to normal, especially in Avon, Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo – the villages that saw the most damage from Hurricane Irene.

Day by day, Buxton is showing signs of recovery quickly as more and more businesses, mostly restaurants, are beginning to open for customers, most with abbreviated hours.

This morning in the southern Hatteras villages, the welcomed sounds of the noisy trash trucks after a one-week interruption was a welcomed sound of normalcy.

Buxton did lose its power for a little while yesterday as the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative brought Avon online to receive power from the diesel generators located in Buxton.  Attempts to hookup the portable megawatt generator that arrived by ferry were unsuccessful, and it was eventually moved to Waves where crews hoped it would run in tandem with the second portable generator to help power Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo (RWS).

Avon received power yesterday afternoon for the first time since Saturday morning, and the power outage was only temporary in Buxton.  Workers at CHEC attempted to call businesses in Buxton warning them before power was disconnected for a short time.  Larger facilities, such as HealthEast Family Care in Avon, were asked to continue to use their generator to help reduce the system load. 

Emergency services continue in Avon and the tri-villages.  The five-person special operational response team (SORT) has manned the local medical center 24/7 since Sunday night.  Two Blackhawk helicopters flew them and a full cache of medical supplies into Billy Mitchell Airfield, and they were immediately transported to Avon and set up a mini emergency room.

The Salvation Army continues to feed hundreds of people three times a day at the Avon Volunteer Fire Department and at the RWS Community Center.  Local churches, fire departments, and rescue squads continue to provide for the community and many volunteers, both residents and support organizations, such as the National Guard, which also arrived on Sunday. 

There is an immediate need for volunteers during mealtime at the RWS Community Center.  Anyone wishing to help, please show up and pitch in.  According to Roger Sullivan, canteen operator for the Salvation Army in RWS, they are feeding between 400 and 500 people per meal.

Food Lion is offering free water out of the back of trailers in both Avon and Rodanthe.  The store in Avon remains closed.  The local grocery stores – Village Grocery, Conner’s Supermarket, and Burrus Red & White Supermarket -- have remained open to provide food and supplies to the islanders.

The island-wide curfew continues, and residents are asked to be inside their homes between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.  The local deputies and state police have been stopping everyone they see out during these hours.

The Coast Guard is also closely monitoring all boats coming in and out of the island.

The primary mission of the ferry system, which is running from Hatteras village and Rodanthe to Stumpy Point, is to bring essential supplies only to the island.  Gasoline, propane, UPS, Salvation Army, and Food Lion trucks are the most visible vehicles on the ferries.

The ferry system continues to encounter problems with shallow channels caused by Hurricane Irene.  Yesterday, at least one ferry from Rodanthe got stuck, and it took about 20 minutes to get going again.  The Ferry Division hopes to dredge this channel very soon. 

Four ferries are traveling to the Rodanthe dock daily.  The larger ferry boats are going to Rodanthe -- the Hatteras, Hyde, Croatan, and the Stan White.

According to one ferry dock worker, about 80 percent of the vehicles leaving the island are commercial and the rest are people getting off the island for various reasons.

Incoming ferries are bringing only supplies.  At the moment, no one is allowed back on Hatteras or Ocracoke until the local officials feel that the infrastructure can support more people.  This has been unsettling for those full-time residents who evacuated in the face of the hurricane and are anxious to get back to check on their homes, families, and friends.  For many stuck off-island, the financial hardship of living on the other side is great.

The little inlet that severed Highway 12 at Mirlo Beach is about the same but more water continues to flow over the submerged road and around the houses located on the soundside of Highway 12.  Even at low tide, the amount of water here is significantly deeper and wider.  There is more erosion in this area, increasing the risk to the houses standing in this pool of water.

All the utility workers have moved north to work on the problems located at the larger inlet, which is called by some New New Inlet.  This name comes from the fact that the breach occurred near the same spot as an inlet, called New Inlet, opened and then closed some years ago.

Apparently, all utility workers are having a lot of success.  Some folks are starting to get services back, such as Internet, cell phone, long distance phones, and cable.  This is the first article I’ve written that will be e-mailed from my home.  Thanks to the CHEC folks who allowed people to use their WiFi since the hurricane.

It’s too early to tell how many hundreds of cars have been lost as a result of the horrific soundside flooding Saturday night.  My truck has transported many different items between the villages and an occasional rider in the back. 

Yesterday, my husband and I picked up an unusual hitchhiker along Highway 12 in Salvo.  A brown pelican -- storm weary, hungry, and confused -- got a ride with us to local wildlife rehabilitator, Lou Browning, in Frisco.  The pelican was healthy but in desperate need of rest, food, and water.

Inside, where Lou triages wildlife, were more than a dozen shearwaters, an offshore ocean bird.  Apparently, these birds are another victim of Hurricane Irene.  They have washed to shore and would die without human intervention.  As we were leaving, another two shearwaters were being brought in for help. 

It’s ironic that islanders, who have every reason to hate the birds because of the restrictions that certain groups have forced on the locals and its fragile economy, have volunteered to patrol the beaches, looking for wildlife that was adversely affected by this super-sized storm.  Some of us wonder what is the National Audubon Society is doing – helping the birds or stopping road repairs?

The people of Hatteras Island have a lot heart and strength.  This is a group of people who know the meaning of friends, family, and neighbors.  Dozens of people from the southern villages are up in Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo at this moment helping those in need.

I am so proud of the community that I call home.


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