October 30, 2012

Life is returning to normal on Ocracoke Island


Ocracoke was coming back to life Tuesday as Hurricane Sandy moved off bringing sunny skies.
 Several owners were getting their businesses open as flood waters receded, but some areas of standing water remained, which is typical after a rain storm.

Ferries to Swan Quarter and Cedar Island will run on the normal winter schedule for all starting Wednesday, but the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry is suspended until Highway 12—on both Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands—is cleared, said Justin Gibbs, Hyde County Emergency Management director.

The north end of Ocracoke above the Pony Pen has sand on the road for about a 400-yard stretch from ocean overwash, he said, and sand-moving equipment was on its way to Ocracoke on the 4 p.m. ferry Tuesday.

“I expect one lane to be cleared by lunchtime Wednesday,” he said from the Hyde County Emergency Operations Center at the Community Center.  Until the lane is open, the road will be barricaded, he said.

Monday’s abbreviated ferry runs to Cedar Island and Swan Quarter were for Ocracoke residents, essential personnel, and infrastructure workers only.

Gibbs also said he learned that Highway 12 from Hatteras to Rodanthe was passable late today after much work by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Ocracoke residents uniformly felt lucky that monster storm Hurricane Sandy only grazed Ocracoke, and there was no major damage on the island.

“That wasn’t a hurricane,” said Tyke Ely, of the two-day storm. “The wind howls with hurricanes. This was like a really bad nor’easter.”

No large trees are down on the island and debris is at a minimum.

“It’s probably the cleanest I’ve seen it after a hurricane,” said Sgt. Jason Daniels of the Hyde County Sheriff’s Department.

The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department did an assessment at 7 a.m. Tuesday and found a few areas where water was still a bit high, but no other damage.

Ed Fuller, Ocracoke district ranger for the National Park Service, said beach access for vehicles would open Wednesday at the earliest.  The beaches are open for pedestrians.

Hyde County Manager Mazie Smith and commissioner Darlene Styron were concerned that they had not heard from officials in Dare County about the state of Highway 12.  They learned about the highway damage from Facebook.

According to a late afternoon Monday press release from the county, flood waters had receded to 6 to 10 inches throughout the village, down from 18- to 24 inches.

Numerous residents could be seen Monday slogging through the water in rain boots, hip waders, and even bare feet, which dismayed Eric Godbey, lead paramedic on Ocracoke.

He said people should be careful of venturing into the water since it could contain contaminants.

Flood waters also pose a danger to residents with private wells, according to a Hyde County press release. Wesley Smith, Hyde County health director, said those with private wells must take steps to disinfect them.

Phyllis Wall, who lives in the Oyster Creek section of Ocracoke, reported that the roads were never under water and the homes on the canals fared well.

“We’re higher up,” she said, explaining that the subdivision was built up on sand.  She did say that there was some water in the center part of the subdivision where homes are not on canals that had not been built up initially.

Chip Stevens, who lives on Irvin Garrish Highway across from the harbor, reported that as water receded, “cars were everywhere” as people went about.

As for provisions on the island, the Variety Store opened Monday and owner Tommy Hutcherson said he had plenty of stock for those still on the island.

Laura and Sean Death, who manage the Ocracoke Station at the Beachcomber Campground, opened for business and had made fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans for sale.

The Topless Oyster Restaurant, at Old Beach Road, was the only restaurant open Monday night and served a roomful of customers.  Other restaurants opened Tuesday.

Ocracoke School was closed Monday, but opened Tuesday afternoon.

Information on the Hyde County Facebook page is updated frequently. You can find it here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Island-Free-Press/202448533127085?sk=wall#!/pages/Hyde-County-Public-Information/245782495454520?fref=ts

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