October 10, 2016

Cleaning up from the storm in Buxton   


While Hatteras village is still partially inundated with saltwater, with sections of the road especially difficult to drive through just north of the village, the central and northern regions of Hatteras Island saw a drastic reduction in flooding on Monday, and residents had an opportunity to head outside, survey homes and businesses, and start fixing, repairing, cleaning, and helping out their neighbors.

On Monday afternoon in north Buxton, Jeff Dawson, the owner of Fatty’s Restaurant, was hard at work unclogging a drain on the side of Highway 12, as a rush of ocean water that was streaming across the highway near the Cape Hatteras Motel deposited more debris and foam into the restaurant's parking lot.

“[Owning and operating] Fatty’s is fun,” he said. “Storm clean-up is not fun.”

The massive effort to de-clog the street drain of seaweed took Jeff and two local helpers roughly two hours to complete, but was a necessary move to ensure that the ocean waters and flooding didn’t re-take this vulnerable section of Highway 12.

“As far as I know, the next closest drain is past The Point (restaurant). There are a couple drains near the Fessenden Center, but the ocean doesn’t typically go there,” said Jeff. “If this drain is clogged, then the waters flow all the way to the Red Drum, to Diamond Shoals, and to the old Comfort Inn (Hatteras Island Inn), so it’s extremely important to keep this drain open.”

While unclogging the drain in the midst of an infusion of foam and saltwater was an important task, it certainly wasn’t the only thing Jeff and his crew had been working on that day.

“We had just settled down from working on our own [homes] when we got a call that the walk-in [refrigerator] had collapsed,” said Sean Finneran, a friend of Jeff’s who owns a local landscaping business, and who was helping him the with storm clean-up.

And, in addition to a ruined walk-in and air-conditioning units, Jeff also had to start planning how to extract and move the restaurant’s dumpster, which had floated from Fatty’s “way down the road” along Highway 12.

“I think it wins the world record for the furthest a dumpster has ever traveled,” he said.

“We’ve been working all day – and really all weekend. I don’t even know what day it is,” said Sean. “But the real fun starts when everything dries out, and [we] can start going to properties and really start cleaning up.”

Other businesses in the surrounding area were in various stages of clean-up, depending on the amount of damage.

An employee at neighboring Dillon’s Corner in Buxton was in the process of pressure washing the exterior and was grateful that the damage wasn’t worse.

“There was no real damage inside – just damage to the ice machine, the pumps, and the [accumulation of] debris and sand and everything else that was left behind,” said Rob Harris.

“There was no water in our gas, which is good – although we still have an ice machine that made its way across the street to Red Drum that we have to get.”

The Red Drum Market, which is also in the vulnerable vicinity, was open for business, and despite a few empty coolers and small stack of sandbags located outside, the interior looked clean and ready for business.

“We got about a foot of water inside, but we have it cleaned up now,” said one Red Drum market employee. “Practice makes perfect.”

At high tide about mid-afternoon, ocean waters were still rushing across  Highway 12 in northern Buxton and pools of standing water caused slow traffic in places, the initial clean-up efforts were well underway.

At around 4:30 p.m., the crew outside of Fatty’s finally extracted an apparently lynchpin clump of grass, and water started rushing into the drain from the middle of the highway at a gushing pace.

The crew, which had been digging into the drain with rakes and shovels for roughly two hours, took a brief minute to celebrate.
“See all that grass right there?” asked Jeff, pointing to a small mountain of seaweed. “We took all of that out of the drain – and now that it’s working again, [I’ll consider that] a great accomplishment.”


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