August 2, 2013
Hurricane Isabel divides the island, but unites the community
By ANNE BOWERS
note: Twelve years ago this week -- on Sept. 18, 2003 -- Hurricane Isabel
roared ashore south of Hatteras Island. The
huge waves and storm surge with the hurricane cut a new inlet between the
villages of Frisco and Hatteras. This is the story about how the entire island
community came together to weather
a sunny and sultry Wednesday morning, less than a week after it was
devastated by storm surge and powerful waves from Hurricane Isabel,
Hatteras village was alive with activity.
Boats, operated mostly
by volunteers, were coming and going from Oden’s Dock, delivering more
volunteers to help with cleanup and much needed supplies. The
headboat, Miss Virginia Dare, arrived from Manteo, full of all kinds of
donated food, cleaning supplies, and other goods that villagers
needed. The ferries were running twice a day on the 3 hour-45
minute run from Stumpy Point with heavy equipment needed to repair the
infrastructure and other supplies.
planes buzzed overhead, and National Guardsmen, Dare County sheriff’s
officers, and state marine fisheries officials maintained order.
had been restored, but restoring the water was more problematic.
However, there was a solution for that also, so that the villagers
cleaning up after the storm and the workers on the island could wash
off the sweat of a day’s work. There are portable showers
available at the parking lots of East Carolina Bank and the Hatterasman
restaurant. At the Hatterasman, a brightly decorated
semi-trailer, the "Porta Kleen," is definitely the preference for most
women. The shower stalls inside are roomier with an outside stall
to hang clothes and an inside stall for showering.
area in the heart of the village — at the Community Center and
Volunteer Fire Department — is the center of all activity. It was
there that the Salvation Army set up a mobile kitchen that was turning
out hundreds of meals a day just two days after the storm. It was
there that villagers got information about power, water, cleanup, and
disaster aid, and that volunteers received their marching orders.
north of the new inlet were lined up at the Frisco Cove Marina to help
their neighbors to the south in the area some were calling "Little
"They would come here and help us if things were reversed," said volunteer Natalie Perry of Frisco.
Easley is coordinating the volunteer effort in Hatteras village.
She earned her stripes doing relief work after hurricanes Emily and
Dennis, so she knew the ropes. The operation is a well-oiled
The week after Isabel, a table with three volunteer
workers was set up in front of the Community Center and fire
department. It was manned by three volunteer workers who took
information from volunteers and gave them their
"People coming here to work
need to check in and we will send them to a job," Easley said.
"So far, most of the volunteers have been from Frisco and Buxton."
were being transported to Hatteras village by boat. People
volunteered their boats, and others helped out by driving them.
Boats ran continuously between Frisco Cove Marina and Oden’s Dock in
Hatteras. These boats became the lifeline of the stranded
village. They transported village residents returning home after
the evacuation, as well as volunteers. Vital supplies,
prescriptions, and donated items traveled to Hatteras with the helpers.
Once at Oden’s Dock, all boats and volunteers had to clear the
official "roadblock" of police, whose job it was to keep sightseers and
others who would hamper the cleanup effort out of the village.
For the first few days, Hatteras was crowded with folks from all over
who came to check on friends or family and see the island’s newest
inlet. However, with limited power and food and no water,
officials soon began to crack down on people who could enter the
Transportation from Oden’s Dock was provided by
more volunteers, using their own vehicles. The workers were
directed to the Community Center. Supplies were carried off to
where they were needed.
"Everybody needs to check in, not just
go off to help friends or families," stressed Margie Easley. "We
have to document everything. When you have this many homes
destroyed, future grants depends on us knowing how much it really
cost. It helps the people who may fall through the cracks — when
insurance isn’t enough."
Initially, removing wet carpet was the
biggest chore for the volunteer workers. Cutting downed trees and
collecting debris and ruined furniture and moving it to the edge of the
road was also important. When work crews were finished with an
assignment, they would go back to Community Center and get their next
In addition to coordinating the work crews, the
front table is a place to gather a wealth of information. Several
handouts were available, providing important information to
residents. Health advisories were clear on drinking water, the
significance of washing hands often, of wearing sturdy and protective
footwear, protecting yourself from mosquitoes, and getting tetanus
shots, which were free and available at HealthEast Family Care in the
Against the brick retaining wall is a large bulletin
board. FEMA’s toll-free number was prominent. Folks needing
prescription requests had a phone number to call. The Command
Center had its number posted for people with transportation needs,
phone outages, electricity concerns, and even those who needed
shelter. There were also basic updates on when school would
resume for the children, the roads would be repaired, and water service
would be restored.
The front table at the Community Center was
being run by Cindy O’Neal with three volunteers, who were answering
questions and keeping track of what was needed and who needed help
next. Patti Robinson, Andrea Kobylinski, and Trish Dempsey all
work together at Cape Hatteras schools. For a few days, they
worked together helping people help people.
were excited that four bicycles had been donated by Hotline. The
women were also spreading the word that veterinarian Mark Grossman
would be in the village soon to check out the pets. Eleven
generators had been sent by a church in Buxton. It was all news
that needed to get out.
All in all, the mood of these women was cheery and upbeat.
"A sense of humor is good," offered Andrea.
"Yeah, but I want it to be normal," said Trish. "I want it to go back."
the volunteer’s table was the Community Center Canteen.
Maj. Jerry Lyles of the Salvation Army was coordinating meals for
residents, workers, and volunteers.
"We do three hot meals a day,"
said Lyles. "Monday we served 1,200 meals and Tuesday
1,000. The supplies came from Greenville — two trailer loads of
food and drink, most of it donated."
the local restaurants contributed to feeding everyone. Everyone
agreed that they were good meals, too. Surf and turf was on the
menu board one night. One resident giggled that she had Crème
Brulee for dessert the previous evening.
Inside the canteen area
was a mass of personal hygiene products. There seemed to be cases
of shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, deodorant. A
delivery of comfort kits was arriving from the Red Cross — unisex, of
The most sought after hygiene item was Purell
Instant Hand Sanitizer. Without running water to shower
with or even wash hands, officials fear the outbreak of infectious
diseases. A bottle was being passed around the canteen for folks
to clean up before lunch. One woman had a mini bottle of Purell
attached to a long key chain around her neck.
"It’s the latest fashion for the island," she noted with a laugh.
There were signs taped everywhere, all of them important.
"Free Daycare. Kids of all ages. United Methodist PreSchool."
to talk to someone? We can help! Stephen Ministers of the
Hatteras Methodist Charge will be glad to listen to anyone who is
feeling the burden of Hurricane Isabel aftermath or just needs to let
out their frustration."
Upstairs at the Hatteras fire station is
the Hatteras village office of the county Emergency Operations
Committee, which was being staffed by Merry Sue Foster and Donna
The office overlooks Highway 12, which was always
a beehive of activity. The opened windows had been dubbed "the
holler hole." It didn’t take long to figure that one out.
"Hey Donna," someone hollered from the street.
Donna knelt in front of the window and asked what they wanted.
"I need to go to ground zero. Will you clear me through the checkpoint?"
got on her walkie talkie to the checkpoint at the eastern, most
devastated area of the village and gave authorization for that person
to get through the checkpoint, which was manned by National Guard
Donna explained that she was in charge of "finding everything. Plus we give donation information, dispense work crews."
phone rang, and someone from Stumpy Point area was sending 20 bicycles
over to the island. Details were worked out on how to do
this. Bicycles are a big deal. Because of road conditions
and a shortage of fuel, returning residents were not allowed to bring
The building inspector ducked in briefly saying,
"Got you one more condemnation." He handed over the papers, and the
information was processed immediately.
Another person stopped in
and explained that a resident who lived around the corner really needed
some chocolate Ensure. Donna got on the phone and called around
until she found some. She instructed the person to take it to
Scotch Bonnet Marina, and it would get here.
A problem arose
with pumping out the portable potties. They needed more 2-inch
hose. That crisis was solved somehow but not with 2-inch hose
because there was none. It wasn’t clear how it got done, but it
was like watching a magic show that made problems disappear.
walkie-talkie squawked to life, and Donna was asked about the status of
a helicopter. Efficiently, she found the information and squawked
The Farm Bureau Insurance people came in.
"We are glad to see you," Donna chirped. "Guess you need passes to ground zero."
was a little buzz that Jimmy Buffett was coming to Hatteras
village. However, it was Jimmy Buffett’s seaplane, loaded with
supplies, that was waiting at the airport in Manteo for clearance to
fly to here. Donna was on top of that issue, too. Because
of the debris in the sound, it turned out to be too risky for the
seaplane to land in front of the breakwater at Oden’s Dock. The
seaplane landed at Billy Mitchell Airport in Frisco, where the supplies
were off-loaded and sent to Frisco Cove Marina for transport.
electrician was needed at a residence, so power could be
restored. This issue took Donna a little time, but she located
Trent Clark on the other side. He was quickly on his way to catch
a ride at the marina in Frisco.
Margie Easley stopped in for a minute to find her sandwich and to say, "We are taking requests for heavy equipment."
was a short walk back to Oden’s Dock. Burrus Red and White
Supermarket was open, as was Nedo’s store, which had a sign posted,
"FREE ICE." The path to the dock leads past a set of portable
toilets and a lone trash truck, which was parked. Nothing smelled
Back at the dock, there was a small group of people
waiting for a boat shuttle back to Frisco. Volunteers were told
to leave by 5 p.m. Because of the danger of hazards in the water
from the storm, the boats were running only in daylight. A skiff
docked, unloading a group of people along with a case of chocolate
Ensure. It wasn’t long before the boat was reloaded and headed
back to Frisco.
Back on the other side, people want to help in
any way they can. Laundry is a big issue when have no
water. Some people returned with dirty laundry from their friends
and family. Others send up their laundry knowing that there are
people waiting to do it for anyone who needs it. It arrived in
black plastic trash bags with a name label on the outside. Most
of it was returned the following morning.
"We have a list of
people who are willing to do laundry," said Cindy Repenning of Frisco
Cove Marina. "Really, we haven’t done that terribly much.
Some people are embarrassed to have a stranger see their dirty clothes."
people are using their business to help make money for the Hatteras
Relief effort. Dhanyo Merillat-Bowers of Therapeutic Massage in
Buxton is offering 10 percent of her proceeds to raise money for those
who need it. The United Methodist Men will distribute the funds.
I am doing is nothing compared to what others are doing," she says.
"People get debilitated. The community needs to help."
cutest approach to helping the folks of Hatteras Village was an
old-fashioned lemonade stand. Ashley Burrus, 11, and her sister
Adrian Burrus, 9, set up their stand in front of their home in
Buxton. According to the girls’ mother, Renee Burrus, the girls
wanted to do something to help two friends who had lost everything in
the storm surge.
"It was spur of the moment," said Renee Burrus. "We raised a lot of money."
with their friends Avery Hooper, Rachel McDaniel, Paxton Gwin, and
Brianna Price, the girls raised $475 to help their Hatteras friends.
"They did the whole project themselves," offered their mom.
days later, the six girls enlisted the help of three more friends and
held a bake sale at Conner’s Supermarket in Buxton. They raised
$1,300 at the bake sale.
"They did it out of the goodness of their hearts," Renee said. "They wanted to help their friends."
such as Hurricane Isabel break down more than property and
buildings. They also break down the barriers that sometimes
divide people. Because of Isabel, all of us are on the same side,
fighting the same fight: food, water, shelter. For now, we are
divided only by water.
(This article was first published in the October 2003 Special Report on Hurricane Isabel in The Island Breeze.)