Ocracoke businesses are unhappy with Dare’s
visitor re-entry decision...WITH
residents and business owners are sympathetic to Hatteras Island’s
plight in the wake of Hurricane Irene, many are not happy with Dare
County’s decision to allow visitors back to the southern villages via
Visitors to Ocracoke are encountering sold-out ferry routes and
Ocracoke businesses are finding that vendors are having difficulties
“It’s terrible,” noted Tommy Hutcherson, owner of the Variety Store.
He said his vendors have had trouble getting to the island via both the
Stumpy Point and Swan Quarter ferries. “We were fine until Hatteras
He said he had vendors stuck in traffic eight hours at Stumpy Point.
“One was 12 hours (into his total work hours) before he could even
deliver to us,” Hutchinson said.
He has had limited vendor deliveries, but his shelves show a good stock
While Sept. 17-18 was the first weekend of visitor re-entry to
Hatteras, he said next weekend, when they and the Ocracoke vacationers
all want to leave, might see a traffic jam on Ocracoke.
Some, such as Fred Westervelt, owner of The Cove Bed and Breakfast, are
concerned that the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative might be
overwhelmed by the demand for power.
Others have expressed support for Hatteras visitors, noting Ocracokers
have to make the best of it.
“Dare County has been a great neighbor to us as 80 percent of our
business comes through them,” said Frank Brown, owner of Natural
Selections on School Road. “Often, the shoe is on the other foot --
with Dare helping us. Now, we’re helping Dare.”
Other business owners on the island, who met Sept. 14 during the
Ocracoke Civic and Business Association meeting, shortly after Dare
County made the announcement allowing visitor re-entry, agreed with
"Dare County's decision to allow tourists to return to Hatteras via
Ocracoke was extremely careless,” said Daphne Bennink, owner of The
Back Porch Restaurant and chairwoman of the Hatteras-Ocracoke Island
Council of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce. That chamber
presented a resolution to Dare County last Thursday asking that the
decision to allow visitors to southern Hatteras be reversed.
“Clearly, no consideration was given to the impact it would have on
Ocracoke's recovery efforts, and it would seem not enough was
given to their very own,” Bennink said.
“While our efforts were previously focused on encouraging visitors to
return to Ocracoke, we're now in full tilt damage control mode in
dealing with the multitude of visitors who are committed to coming to
Ocracoke and/or Hatteras but cannot get here."
Hyde County commissioner, Darlene Styron, who represents Ocracoke,
noted at the Monday, Sept. 19, Board of Commissioner meeting that there
was a lack of communication from Dare County to both Ocracoke and the
Ferry Division when that decision was made last week.
She has been fielding phone calls and added that a lot of things happen
that the commissioners don’t have a say in.
“We need to make sure that when we evaluate the Irene response that we
include Dare in the evaluation and plan for this next year,” Styron
Residents reported a two-mile traffic back-up in the early morning
hours Sunday for the 6 a.m. Swan Quarter ferry.
Business owners on Ocracoke this weekend noted that business has been
unsteady. Many have abbreviated hours, as would be typical for later in
“We’re having late-fall numbers,” noted B.J. Oelschlegel, owner of the
Slushy Stand, which sells ice cream and coffee and rents bicycles.
“Usually at this time of the year we’re pretty busy.”
“It’s the second weekend after the island opened up (after Hurricane
Irene), and we have no idea what to expect in terms of customers,”
added Sarah Whitlock, who works at the stand.
But it’s not just the damage on Hatteras and Pea islands. It’s also the
damage throughout the East Coast, she noted, which may also be
affecting peoples’ decisions to come to the Outer Banks for vacation.
Day trippers, the lifeblood of most businesses on Ocracoke, have
virtually dried up.
“What day trippers?” asked Rufus Keel, owner of the Sunglass Shop.
But Frank Brown noted he had some day visitors from Emerald Isle over
“But that’s expensive,” he said about the $30 round-trip cost for a
ferry ride that a day-tripper would have to shell out.
Ashley and Jason Harrell, owner of Lula Belles, reported on Sunday that
some of the Hatteras visitors going through the village had stopped in.
“We’ve had people saying they will stop a night in Ocracoke on the way
in and on the way back,” she said.
This reporter rode the Cedar Island ferry Saturday afternoon. More than
half of the 48 vehicles on the ferry were headed to Hatteras Island.
Interviews with some of those on the ferry showed that they are
sympathetic to Ocracoke’s plight, too.
“The Outer Banks is our favorite place,” said Linda Hall, who, with her
husband Sam, was headed to Frisco. “It’s so sad what happened from the
She said her party plans to visit Ocracoke mid-week to help support the
Angel and Ricky Poovey of Durham noted they, too, will visit Ocracoke
after they get settled.
“We want to spend some of our money on Ocracoke, too,” Poovey said.
“It’s been hard for everyone.”
Rental companies are scrambling to help vacationers who can’t get
weekend ferry reservations to modify their vacations to come a day
before or day after their scheduled week.
“We’ve been pretty lucky with people cooperating,” noted Cherie Ely, an
assistant at Blue Heron Realty.
She said some rental home owners are allowing vacationers to change
their dates and are trying to be creative about how to get folks onto
The companies also have been working ahead by calling folks who have
future vacations to make ferry reservations now.
Collectively, it’s a waiting game.
“As soon as they can get 12 South open, the better it will be for all
of us,” Brown said.
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