September 7, 2016

Dare Board talks about storm aftermath, damage estimates


Tropical Storm Hermine and its aftermath dominated much of the discussion at yesterday morning's meeting of the Dare County Board of Commissioners.

Hermine, which passed offshore of the Outer Banks, at about 8:45 on Saturday morning after having spun up a tornado at a Hatteras village campground in the early morning hours, packed a punch on the backside of storm that many weren't expecting.

According to a very preliminary damage estimate by a county assessment team on Sunday and Monday, high northwest winds and soundside storm surge damaged at least 665 properties in Dare County, destroyed a house in Southern Shores, and did a total of $2.5 million of damage in the county.

The preliminary estimate showed that $1.48 million of the damage was on Hatteras Island, mostly from Pamlico Storm surge, which was highest on the southern areas of the island, especially in the villages of Frisco and Hatteras.

Teams were back out doing more assessments today, especially in Hatteras village, where Commissioner Allen Burrus noted there was more damage than the preliminary figures indicate.

The preliminary estimate showed that most all of the damage on Hatteras Island occurred in Frisco, where 100 properties were listed with minor damage totaling $1.4 million of the Hatteras Island total.  The majority of the damage, the report said, was in unfinished lower level storage areas, not living areas, and was from soundside flooding.

The preliminary estimate said that Hatteras village "suffered minor soundside flooding," when most residents would agree that it had the highest water levels on the island, which some said were up to 5 feet.

The county's report listed only seven buildings in Hatteras village with $89,000 in damage.  The report said three homes had 4 to 6 inches of water in the living area on Queen Street and Kohler Road.  Two other homes had minor flooding in unfinished storage areas, the county said. The report went on to say that two businesses had minor water damage. 

And the county noted that there was still a large amount of standing water on the roadways, making travel difficult and slow.

The estimate of damage in Hatteras village also includes two cabanas that were destroyed by a tornado at about 1 a.m. early on Saturday morning.  The value was listed at $20,000.

The National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City has confirmed the tornado touchdown. Preliminary estimates from the NWS are that the short-lived tornado was an EF0 on the Fujita scale with winds of 80 mph.  It is estimated that the tornado cut a path 100 yards long and 25 yards wide.

Three minor injuries were reported and several private camping trailers were also damaged.

The Weather Service has confirmed two other tornadoes -- in Marshallberg and Straits, both in Carteret County. Both tornados were estimated to be EF1s with winds of 95 mph.  There were no reported injuries, though both caused significant property damage.

Dare County's preliminary estimate of Hatteras Island damage said that there were no reports of structural damage in Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo -- just general cleanup from yard debris.

Ocean overwash was also reported from Mirlo Beach to the Rodanthe Pier.

There were no reports of structural damage in Avon either -- also just cleanup from yard debris.

No structural damage was reported in Buxton, but the assessment was done before Sunday morning's overwash at high tide by the motels and streets off Old Lighthouse Road.  This area will be reassessed if necessary.

Other areas of unincorporated Dare County reported $46,000 in damage, mostly from a roof blown off a soundfront home in Colington.

In Dare's northern towns, the preliminary damage estimated totaled 548 structures with minor damage and six with major damage, one destroyed, and one uninhabitable for a total of $1.025 million.

Commissioners generally praised the response of county workers, though Burrus had the most comment on the storm and its aftermath. noting that, "We can get caught as we did this time, though I am not placing blame."

"The water on Hatteras Island went from dead low to 2 1/2 to 4 feet in less than 40 minutes," he said.

He said he thought there needed to be better communication between the first responders and others out on the road and the county residents and business owners who are  needing information.

Burrus said he thought the county or the county board should contact DOT about recurring standing water problems on Highway 12 just outside Hatteras village and in such villages as East Lake on the mainland.

And he said he thought that wellness checks on elderly residents after the storm fell through the cracks.

He said there was much good to say about the response to the storm.

"But we got to face the fact that there were problems and we need to fit it," he added.

County manger Robert Outten said the response was based on information that called for winds in the 40-mph range, minor to moderate soundside flooding.

 “So all the response, all of the efforts, all of the things that we do were based on that information that we get from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service,” he said.

The highest wind gust reported in Dare  County by the National Weather Service was 80 mph at Alligator River, where a truck driver was killed when his rig blew into the railing.

Outten noted there would be post-storm discussion, as usual.

He also said that the county would plan a debris pickup, though it might not be scheduled for a few days.

The pickup will be done "in-house" by the sanitation department, he said, since he said he doesn't think the damage in the county will be high enough to qualify for federal funds for cleanup.

Ideally, he said, the county would like to do the debris pickup in one pass, and urged folks who were able to take the debris to the transfer station in Buxton.

Burrus urged the county do get the debris pickup done quickly, especially since hurricane season doesn't end until Nov. 30.

"Please don't take advantage of the debris pickup," said board Chairman Bob Woodard. "Just because we had a storm, please don't clean your house out.


The next meeting of the Dare County Board of Commissioners has been postponed and will be on Monday, Sept. 26, at 5 p.m. in the Commissioners meeting room in Manteo.

Hatteras island residents can still make public comments from the Fessenden Center in Buxton.  The public comment period is scheduled near the beginning of the board meeting.


Also, Dare County needs its residents to respond to an economic development survey.

The county is working with two contractors -- North Carolina State University and RTI International -- to develop an economic development and diversification plan.

"Your involvement and input are critical to our success," the county said in a news release on its website.

Specifically, the county wants as many folks as possible who live, work, and own businesses in Dare County to take a short amount a time to answer a survey that will  help the contractors craft their economic development recommendations.

"We are asking residents and local business owners to share their opinions and attitudes in relation to local growth, quality of life, and economic development for Dare County," the posting on the website added. "Please complete the online survey and share the link with others."

The survey can be accessed by either clicking on or copying and pasting it into the browser on your computer, tablet or smart phone.

It should take less than 20 minutes to complete. And all responses are anonymous.

County officials says say the survey data will be an important part of understanding what growth and economic development policies residents and business owners support.

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