marked the beginning for residents who evacuated before Hurricane Irene
to be able to return to their homes on Hatteras Island.
Dare County Government had no real data –only educated guesses -- on
how many vehicles left the island. Our officials anticipated
problems if restrictions were totally lifted at once and devised a plan
that allowed people back by village and in alphabetical order by last
Sunday was Buxton’s scheduled day, Hatteras Village was Monday, and
Frisco on Tuesday. At that time, there was no plan to allow
resident homeowners back for the more damaged towns of Avon, Salvo,
Waves and Rodanthe.
Sunday’s re-entry from Stumpy Point was smooth and uneventful, unlike
today when damage to the only ramp at the three-slip ferry docks put
the route out of commission, perhaps up to 24 hours.
Ferry Division and Dare County officials hope the ferry will be
repaired and running again with returning residents tomorrow.
On Sunday morning, the 7:30 a.m. ferry ride from Rodanthe to Stumpy
Point was the second one of the morning after the travel ban for
residents was lifted. There were no cars on the ferry named
White, which can carry up to 40 vehicles.
Its only passengers were a couple and their two dogs heading off the
island for the first time since the storm hit, hoping to make a
doctor’s appointment and to replace their car, which was lost in
soundside flooding. They were meeting a family member who was
waiting at Stumpy Point for them.
During the two-hour ride west through slick-calm water, three other
ferry boats were seen transporting both commercial and residential
vehicles to Hatteras Island, two headed for Rodanthe and one for
Hatteras Village. The first two boats were full, but not the
Once we docked at Stumpy Point, only three vehicles were waiting in
line to catch the Stan White. The check point located further
down the road was manned with both state and local law enforcement
officials. There was no line here either.
A man who owns and operates a restaurant in Avon with a house in Buxton
was turned away because his driver’s license said Kill Devil
Hills. The state trooper was unwavering to the man’s
situation. The rules were the rules.
There were no other vehicles, no line, and no chaos. Nothing.
Back at the ferry, marina electrician Larry Smith commented that, “I
wouldn’t have expected that everyone would have shown up as per the
county’s schedule.” He was complimentary of how well all the
agencies worked together to devise a clever but practical plan.
A call was made to the staging area about a mile away, and the person
on the other side of the radio said there were only two cars waiting
which were quickly cleared and allowed to board.
In all, only nine cars and one supply van loaded on the ferry, which
left with less than 25 percent capacity.
Ferry shift supervisor, Tom Stagg, agreed that “The day has been very
organized to a lot of people’s surprise.”
He also wondered if the fact that it was Sunday may have been a factor
because commercial deliveries like the postal service and UPS don’t
work on the weekend.
“People have been patient with us,” Stagg continued. “We’re
trying to get people home.
Ten-year veteran ferry marine mechanic, Buddy Poythress, was
compassionate about the plight of the evacuees who had been unable to
get home for ten days. “I feel for these people, but we have
consider their safety – both on the ferry and on land.”
However, only a couple hours into the loosening of the re-entry rules,
there just weren’t a lot of people.
Chris from Buxton, who didn’t want his last name used, was one of the
few residents heading home.
“We didn’t want to leave, but we didn’t want to stay,” Chris says.
He and his wife approached the mandatory evacuation as a
vacation. They picked Charlottesville, Va., because they knew
that area had a lot of things to do and offered some culture.
They spent some time in the mountains near there.
“Had the best barbecue I had eaten in a long time,” Chris reminisced
about last week.
They had planned for a few days away, not 10 days. Their
ran low, and the couple traveled north to stay with family until the
county said they could return home.
In the end, there were very excited to be so close to home.
missed being home, which was undamaged in the hurricane.
Ferry employee, Maxine Gray of Avon, was also traveling home by permit
because she was needed to be back at work for the ferry system on
Tuesday. She and her boyfriend, Bill Simmons, had spent a
and a half in Virginia Beach with Bill’s family. They had
cat and dog and a truck filled with supplies and gasoline.
Both islanders glanced at the meager amount of cars on the ferry and
Maxine said, “I thought there would be a lot of people on the ferry.”
Both were very eager to get back to their own homes. Maxine’s
house, which was elevated following the damaging floods of Hurricane
Emily in 1993, had no damage that she was aware of. But on a
personal level, she is feeling the effects of lost wages from missing a
week’s worth of work.
Bill’s older but newly renovated house is very damaged, and he was told
it had three to four feet inside the structure.
“Whatever happened, happened. Why get mad about it,” Bill
stated, even though he wasn’t anxious to see everything the had
recently done to the house ruined.
Christine Medlin, 85 and traveling alone, “They said ‘leave’ so I
left. I was never afraid but I followed the advice of the
experts. But, I won’t leave again.”
Christine’s husband stayed in Buxton while she heeded the evacuation
order and traveled to Rocky Mount, N.C., to wait out Hurricane Irene in
a motel. She was planning to be gone only for a couple of
and when it became apparent that she would be unable to come home for
an extended period of time, when she relocated to Tarboro, N.C., where
stayed with a friend.
Ferry boat worker, Ted Midgett of Stumpy Point commented, “About 80
percent of the people I’ve spoken with said they will not leave again
for the next hurricane.”
It was a near flawless ferry ride home until the boat had to wait for
an hour because there was another ferry at the dock in
The ferry captain announced on the speaker system that the narrow
channel near the island was only wide enough to handle one boat at a
time. It would be another hour and a half before the Stan
The jovial mood quickly soured, and the once patient people grumbled
and complained. They had managed to survive the last 10 days
being displaced but another hour or more was just too much to bear.
The ferry engines idled in the sound with nothing else to do but wait
for the channel to clear. A Coast Guard boat came near while
worked to make sure the channel markers were in the right places.
In time, the ferry docked but was met with one more delay.
electric powered ramp which is lowered for cars to drive on to the
higher ramp would not work. The ground crew scrambled and
discovered that the power was off again in the village.
The generator dedicated to powering the temporary dock was started with
a plume of smoke and bright yellow electric cords run to power the
lift. This was the final delay. When the ramp
bridged the gap between land and sea, all the vehicles cleared the
decks of the Stan White and people scurried home and back to their
This morning on Facebook, there were dozens of joyous comments about
“Home Sweet Home.” In this age of social media,
longer need Dorothy to tell us that there is no place like
Dare County public health nurse, Cid Cousey, observed that, “For the
next storm, the people who stayed will evacuate and those who just
evacuated will stay.”
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