August 2, 2013
One year after the storm: The Alex surprise
By IRENE NOLAN
August of 2004, I was working on stories about how Hatteras was faring
one year after Hurricane Isabel, which made landfall near Ocracoke
Inlet on Sept. 18. The hurricane’s devastating storm surge created a
new inlet between Frisco and Hatteras village and destroyed homes and
None of us counted on the surprise storm -- Hurricane Alex, which arrived rather unexpectedly on Aug. 3.
Alex was nowhere near as catastrophic as Isabel, it brought its own set
of problems and caught even residents off guard.
not become a tropical storm until Sunday afternoon, Aug. 1. Rain
and wind but little else was expected on the Outer Banks. By late
Monday, forecasters said some strengthening was possible. We
awoke Tuesday morning to learn that the storm was a Category 1
hurricane. By the time it passed within 15 miles of Cape Hatteras
at 1 p.m., it was a Category 2.
Sustained winds of 75 to 80 mph
were recorded at various sites on the islands, with gusts of up to 120
at the Ocracoke ferry terminal.
When the wind shifted to the
northwest, the sound tide began surging onto Hatteras and
Ocracoke. According to the National Weather Service at Newport,
the storm surge was 4 to 6 feet from Buxton to Ocracoke.
was no evacuation, so islanders and visitors lost vehicles to the sound
tide — probably as many as 700. Rain, wind and tide damaged homes
and buildings. Debris from the sound covered streets and yards.
of the folks who were devastated by Isabel and still trying to recover
from physical and financial losses were slapped again by Alex.
of the hardest hit was the Sandbar and Grille. The restaurant on
the eastern edge of Hatteras village was destroyed by Isabel’s ocean
surge last year. Owners John and Jane Metacarpa relocated to
Buxton and re-opened in early spring. Business was better than
ever in the new location — until Alex.
Though they didn’t get
sound tide in the lower level, the upstairs dining room overlooking the
sound was devastated by wind and rain. Part of the roof blew off,
three large windows blew out, doors blew off hinges, ceiling tiles fell
down, water soaked the walls, insulation and carpets.
Metacarpas had to close down for almost three weeks and gut the
inside. They still have not settled with their insurers from
their Isabel loss, and now they had a new set of insurance hassles —
and another loss of business. And their staff of 25 was
unemployed during the height of the tourist season.
this will be the comeback from the comeback," Jane said the week after
Alex. "It’s been a nightmare, but I try to laugh about it a
Others who were struggling back from Isabel were dealt another blow by Alex.
Pharmacy, Creative Ballance and Village Video, which share a building,
had several inches of water in the shops. Sandy Bay Gallery and
Izabelle’s Closet, which were devastated in Isabel and had re-opened in
the spring, also had sound tide. Oden’s Dock suffered more damage
in Alex. However, all have dealt with clean-up and are open.
there are businesses, such as Sea Weeds, a garden shop and antiques
store on N.C. 12 in Frisco, that wase untouched by Isabel but damaged
by Alex. The week after Alex, owner Becky Marlin had a sign hanging on
the fence of the garden shop that said, "Sea Weeds Garden Shop has a
fine selection of plants — most of them DEAD." The sign at the
door to the antiques and gift shop read, "Come in and browse our
mud-encrusted gifts and antiques."
certainly added to the woes of homeowners and businesses on Hatteras
and Ocracoke. However, the storm did bestow a few gifts.
Hatteras Civic Center, destroyed by Isabel, had no storm tide from
Alex. Its renovation is on schedule, and the building should be
ready for the annual Hatteras Village Surf Fishing Tournament in
The Sea Gull Motel on the oceanfront in
Hatteras village was almost totaled by Isabel. The Oden family,
which owns the motel, is nearly finished rebuilding the one section of
the motel that was not demolished. They hope to open it soon.
Isabel’s ocean waves surged through the property, they took about
everything in their path, including two double-wide Adirondack chairs
that had been at the motel since it was opened almost 50 years
ago. The chairs, along with all kinds of other debris in the
village, were washed into the marsh on the back side of the island.
Then came Alex with its storm surge from the Pamlico Sound and through the marsh.
back came one of the two Adirondack chairs. It was swept back
onto the Sea Gull property within about 10 or 15 feet of where it had
been sitting on a porch last Sept. 18.
Two villagers reported
that music CDs, which had been swept into the marsh, were washed back
into their yards by Alex. And the sign from the Pelican’s Roost
tackle shop was swept back near the property.
(Portions of this article were first published in the September 2004 issue of The Island Breeze.)