By JOY CRIST
and Ocracoke islands have had a starring role in nightly newscasts as
the power outage inches closer to the one-week mark, but the islands
themselves have been eerily quiet as the outage lingers on.
is the warmest February that I can remember,” joked Capt. Ernie Foster
at the Avon Fishing Pier, where he waited with a crowd of other
residents to chat with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper on Thursday.
prevailing attitude on Hatteras Island has been one of both frustration
and resilience. This isn’t the first time that locals have had an empty
island in the heart of summer due to an evacuation, but the cause of
the evacuation – a manmade issue rather than a natural disaster – has
added an unusual layer to the scenario.
action lawsuits have been filed in the past 24 hours against the
company that severed the cable – PCL Construction – with handfuls of
homeowners, business owners and vacationers signed on as plaintiffs.
and discussion groups have also been planned in the next couple of days
to discuss legal options for business owners, and several locals have
reached out to government officials for action.
is not enough to declare a disaster area with nothing but lip service.
No one here except the folks with ‘old money’ can pay any of their
bills or taxes, possibly for the rest of the year…” read one letter to
Senator Bill Cook. “Make no mistake, this disaster is worse for the
labor force, residents and businesses than any hurricane or tropical
storm. If there are any tricks of the bureaucracy that I can relay to
our residents as to how we are going to make up for this man-made [and]
man-caused disaster please let me know. Otherwise, I will continue to
insist on the greatest penalties to the responsible parties and
complete reparations to the labor force, residents and businesses in
Hatteras village and the entire Hatteras Island.”
the hours and days drag on, so does the underlying frustration. But
conversely – and similar to a natural disaster – community support and
outreach is at sky-high levels as well.
the weekend, the St. John United Methodist Church in Avon was stocked
with bottled water and non-perishable food items for residents who have
lost power, as well as all their food supplies. And a number of locals
have organized grassroots efforts to deliver generators and supplies to
residents with special needs.
Anne Scalia, who owns Hatteras Island Boardsports in Avon, reports that
their income in the past few days has been less than a quarter of what
it normally is this time of year. But she has nevertheless been busy by
orchestrating a community-wide effort to help residents in need.
started when the Dare County Democrats called me and said ‘What can we
do for you?’” she says. “And it’s just expanded from there.”
with churches and organizations from all across the Outer Banks, as
well as individual residents who want to help, Debra and her team have
received and delivered 13 generators to people in need. (They’ve also
received a donation of 80 gallons of gas.)
units are expensive – they are probably thousand dollar units, and
people are just sending them and loaning them out, with me just logging
them in the book,” she says.
it’s a peace of mind for people who have a medical need,” she adds.
“Moms with newborn babies, older adults, children with special needs –
the people who can’t handle any sort of heat.”
reports that a number of residents have stepped up to the plate to help
with the efforts. Folks have gone door to door asking elderly neighbors
they know if they need help, or have offered to deliver and set up the
heavy generators when a family in need has been identified.
have been so kind,” says Debra. “I know there’s frustration, but I feel
like you need to channel that frustration into something else. We can’t
do anything about business lost right now, but you can feel good when
you’re helping someone who needs it… and I’ve met 13 great families
along the way.”
area businesses also remained open in the past several days to cater to
the residents, property owners, and vendors who are still allowed
access on the island.
have shorter hours to be sure,” said one convenience store employee.
“And we haven’t had much business. Not like we should have. But it’s a
habit to be open right now.”
businesses also offered specials or promotions to ease the frustration
felt across the islands. A chalkboard sign outside Pangea Tavern in
Avon read “Half price appetizers and $3 beer. P.S. positive emotions
while emotions that range from frustration to positivity swirl – and
the islands continue to dominate national headlines – the beaches
remain eerily quiet.
power outage has been covered in media outlets and newspapers all
across the country. CNN, USA Today, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune,
and U.S. News & World Report have all posted stories in the past
several days about the outage.
while national media attention is at an all-time high, the island
itself feels like a different world. On Tuesday morning, just one beach
umbrella could be spotted along the Avon shoreline. And the island’s
Food Lion – normally a hub of activity in the summer months – had less
than a dozen cars in the parking lot.
And this combination of a deserted island with a lack of business has fueled the mixed emotions for many residents.
is the first time in years that I remember having three days off in a
row in the summer,” said a resident and a longtime server at a local
island restaurant. “It’s weird, because it’s nice to catch your breath,
but you’re losing money every day.”
thing that most all residents agree on, however, is the incredible
efforts of Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) in resolving the
problem. Since the power outage began on Thursday, locals have
commented across the board on how hard the CHEC personnel have worked
for days at a time, running a 24/7 operation to get the islands back
the meantime, the island remains in a holding pattern. While national
media attention grows, and the area remains a ghost town, all locals
and visitors can do is wait.
probably more recognized now [nationally] than we ever were before –
first because of Shelly Island, and then because of this outage,” said
one resident. “It’s just a shame that people can’t come down right now
and see how great our island is for themselves.”