Yesterday morning, my good friend and Island Free Press writer, Anne Bowers, said she thought islanders were suffering from hurricane hangover.
I knew exactly what she was talking about.
Most of us on Hatteras and Ocracoke spent Wednesday getting ready for the storm. We awoke Thursday morning to the news that Earl was again a strong Category 4 with winds up to 145 mph. Then we spent the rest of Thursday watching, waiting, and worrying about what was to come.
Many of us got little or no sleep Thursday night as the hurricane passed offshore — thankfully. First we were pummeled by storm force northeast winds and then even worse northwest winds after Earl passed by.
By daylight on Friday, the winds, which gusted up to 85 mph at my colleague Donna Barnett?s house in Hatteras village, was pushing the Pamlico Sound over the islands.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm surge was 4.7 feet in Hatteras village. It was about 4 feet at my house in Brigands? Bay.
About mid-morning when I finally lay down to take a nap, the water was still all over the neighborhood. So it was Friday afternoon before most of us could get out to survey the damage and debris.
Thankfully, there wasn?t much damage, but there was plenty of debris to clean up,
On Saturday at 7 a.m., Highway 12 was re-opened to both residents who evacuated and to visitors.
That was the next flood, so to speak, and many with hurricane hangover were not amused.
One of them was Ann Wade of Rodanthe, who sent Island Free Press these comments in the early afternoon.
?We were fortunate in dealing with Earl and then betrayed by our commissioners. It was another brilliantly poor decision to open the islands to all comers instead of letting residents and employees on first to prep for visitors. Now our cleaners can’t get here because of traffic, no boats were ready at the ferry by the time people started lining up, and stores are not open or not staffed and stocked properly.
All they had to do was wait until 5 p.m. — or at least 3 p.m. — for heaven?s sake. Give us a chance. Those guests could have been spending money up there while waiting for access. Now everyone — guests and residents– are frazzled and unhappy. Way to look out for us. Thanks a lot.?
Weary islanders with a big hurricane hangover came face to face with visitors ready to start their Labor Day vacation.
A friend of Anne Bowers? who was going from Nags Head to her job in Rodanthe said visitors got testy when law enforcement officials let U.S. Coast Guard personnel enter first.
Traffic was on a standstill on the Bonner Bridge at times as returning residents and workers and the visitors were all trying to get onto the island.
Their entry was slowed by sound water still standing in the highway, taking it down to one lane in places. The Department of Transportation was periodically still working to push back the sand and water.
At one point, it was taking an hour or two to get from the bridge to Rodanthe, a trip that usually takes 20 minutes.
Visitors started arriving in the villages by about 8:30.
Rental management companies were still trying to get rental houses opened back up after the hurricane and get them cleaned. Pool and hot tub cleaners could barely keep up.
Some stores and restaurants that had been flooded were still cleaning up. Other businesses were short-handed because employees had evacuated.
Bowers said even the Food Lion was swamped since it moved all of the inventory off the bottom shelves and sent many workers off the island for the storm.
?The island,? she said ?was unresponsive and unprepared for tourists.?
When she and her husband, Island Free Press photographer Don Bowers, were taking plywood off the windows at her business, Indian Town Gallery in Frisco, she said a visitor pulled up and ?yelled? at her because the coffee shop wasn?t open yet.
However, Bowers added that she had the gallery opened at 10 a.m.
?I had showered and I had a smile on my face, but I wasn?t happy about it,? she said.
A friend, Bowers said, was livid when she was called into work at a rental management company Friday afternoon ? after a sleepless night and dealing with a mess at her house.
?If I had been called in Friday afternoon, I would have taken a hostage,? she said.
So should the island have been opened to all comers Friday morning or should the entry have been staged with residents and workers first?
Maybe and maybe not is the simple answer.
Entry to the island after a storm is always controversial with residents, business owners, and visitors. Dare County Emergency Management, it seems, cannot please all the people all the time.
There is little doubt that some business owners ? the ones who could open up and had help ? were tickled to salvage as much as they could of the Labor Day weekend, the last big hurrah of the summer.
Beth Midgett of Midgett Realty said some guests did show up early in the morning to check in. But, she said, the company had e-mailed all renters to explain the situation with getting cottages ready. Most, she said, were ?really understanding.?
Warren Judge, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, and Bobby Outten, the county manager, were surprised to hear that not all were happy with the 7 a.m. entry time. They said no one had contacted them to complain.
However, both said that safety was their major concern when re-opening the island, and that DOT has assured them that the highway would be safe Saturday morning. They added that they welcomed feedback and will be reviewing the emergency management decisions later this week.
Now the person with the worst hurricane hangover was the guy who streaked naked to the top of the Bonner Bridge and back down during the time traffic was at a standstill.
This story was related by Beth Midgett, who said a visitor reported it to the staff at the company?s Rodanthe office.
Midgett said she doesn?t know which end of the bridge the streaker came from or, obviously, who he is ? visitor or islander.
However, as the chairwoman of the Dare County Citizens? Committee to Replace the Bonner Bridge, she sure is sorry that ?he didn?t have a Replace the Bridge Now bumper stickers on one of his cheeks.?
ABOUT THE SLIDE SHOW
These photos of the soundside flooding in Avon, Frisco, Hatteras villages were taking by Dale Farrow, Trisha Midgett and Jane Vercruysse. We thank them for sharing.