whether it is a northeaster, tropical storm, or a full-blown Hurricane,
has its own signature.
Hurricane Irene will be remembered for the two distinct inlets,
multiple dune breaches, unprecedented soundside flooding, tenuous
electricity, and evacuees who couldn’t return home.
Unlike the damage brought on by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, which leveled
the east end of Hatteras village, Hurricane Irene’s destruction is
mostly hidden by trees and behind the walls of ruined buildings that
are still standing.
The tears of despair that flowed last Sunday after the storm from the
residents of the flooded villages of Avon, Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo
have been completely transformed into a can-do attitude. We
rebuild and we can recover.
The centers of this positive energy are the Avon Volunteer Fire
Department and the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Center, located in
Rodanthe. These are the places where hundreds of people get
three meals a day and find out information.
Even though there is some food, water, and services available at the
food bank, rescue squads, and volunteer fire departments in the
northern villages of Hatteras Island, it is the RWS Community Center
that epitomizes the spirit of these hardy villagers.
The atmosphere is electric inside the walls of this humble building,
which is supported by pilings tall enough to help it escape the
damaging soundside waters of Saturday night.
This facility is providing three meals a day to the victims, the
volunteers, and all the support teams sent here to help.
Once the word got out, which took a couple of days, the community
center went from feeding a few dozen folks at mealtime to feeding 700
to 800 lunches and dinners. They are still asking for
to help serve the food.
The Salvation Army is coordinating the meals, and the need for food has
been growing. At the beginning, they just opened more cans of
food, like ravioli, to help augment the amount of food and to make sure
everyone got fed.
Over the last several days, the food has been coming up from local
restaurants in the southern villages and by people off-island making
tremendous and timely donations of food.
Island restaurants have prepared everything from trays of sandwiches to
dozens of pizzas and delivered them at mealtime.
According to Ruth Morgan, a volunteer from Buxton who has immersed
herself in the RWS Community Center, the food will run low and,
miraculously, food arrives from an individual or restaurant.
People off-island have been making food donations by calling one of the
open local restaurants, which are basically in Buxton, and requesting a
certain dollar amount of food be delivered to a community
Most donations have been between $200 and $500. The
then makes the food appropriate to the canteen styles of eating and
takes it there.
The Community is trying to provide for every need the people in the
community might have.
The Dare County Health Department is set up, giving people tetanus
shots to protect those
involved in the clean-up effort.
FEMA is on hand to help victims begin the application process for
emergency food stamps and aid for rebuilding their damaged homes.
This is the place to get food for your pets, small and large.
and dog food is readily available for the taking and upon request, hay
is available for horses and livestock.
Baby diapers, tooth paste, deodorant, soaps, and shampoos are here for
people to take. In fact, the building even offers showers to
those who want them.
On Friday, one of the two temporary megawatt diesel generators
delivered to the island following the hurricane, stopped working and
lunch was served without electricity.
Ruth Morgan just kept working with no outward appearance that anything
was different. “The power comes and the power goes,” Ruth
with a shrug.
In the building’s foyer are piles of canned and dry goods.
take what you need. There are also boxes of new clothes.
At the top of her lungs, Dare County social worker Amberly Dyer yelled
out the pertinent updates about available services including the Parks
and Recreations Department van service to help move people around the
villages. She was also taking requests for children’s
which was being made available by Tommy Hilfiger.
The alcohol smell of Purell hand sanitizer permeated the air.
standing water around the villages is smelly and contaminated.
The parking lot is always full and bustling, and it isn’t always easy
to find a place to park.
Verizon brought in a satellite trailer Thursday, which was a little
piece of technological magic for many who stayed for the
The big screen TV ran inside the van, and outside were phones so people
could make contact with friends and relatives off the island.
was a joyous moment for dozens of stranded islanders, both off and on
Verizon has four of these portable units, and this one came all the way
from Dallas, Texas. These trucks offer Internet and cell
service via satellite.
“We were surprised that we got it up so quickly,” offered Verizon
employee James Fletcher. He was impressed by the island
and offered, “This is a real tight community. Everybody knows
This is a proud group of people who are angry at the opinion that the
outside world carries about their choice to stay during the
storm. These are hardy people with the knowledge of storms
in them through the generations. They don’t call 911 for help
when they get scared. They adjust to the changing conditions
protect themselves first, property second.
The power of the people in the tri-villages is almost something you can
reach out and touch. They are ready to get over the storm and
move forward. The people haven’t given up or lost hope.
“We will clean it up. We will live here. We will
told by environmentalists that we can’t be here,” Ruth Morgan says with
Still, the community looks nervously north towards the broken highway
that separates Hatteras Island from the rest of the
There is a palatable nervousness for fear that environmental groups
will stop the plugging of the inlets. Opening up the highway
important to the fragile recovery now tethering the island economy and
the hope that the remainder of the 2011 tourist season can be
salvaged. The fear of Hurricane Katia grows a little
In spite of it all, there is gratitude flowing from the hearts and
of the island’s residents Hurricane Irene wasn’t the direct hit as
forecasted. After all, it could have been worse, a lot worse.
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