Neighbors helping neighbors: Cleaning up after Michael’s flood

By on October 15, 2018

Storm debris piled along Bay Drive in Kill Devil Hills. (Kari Pugh)

Nancy Gilmer arrived in South Nags Head after a road trip from Pennsylvania Thursday night thinking Hurricane Michael wasn’t so bad.

The wind was howling, but the usual high-water spots on her way home didn’t seem particularly high.

“As I turned onto my street there was a sudden surge of water and it was moving rapidly east,” she said. “Before I knew it, I was truly frightened because the water was rising so rapidly.”

She tried backing up onto her drainage field, thinking she’d be on higher ground.

“I opened my door to find water coming into the floor of the car,” she said.

Gilmer made her way back out to Beach Road, finding it flooded with rapidly moving and rising water. She finally got out to U.S. 158, and a hotel for the night.

Flooding at Nancy Gilmer’s home in south Nags Head following Thursday’s remnants of Hurricane Michael.

Gilmer was one of the lucky ones. Across Dare County, fire and EMS crews responded to dozens of calls of drivers trapped in high water, downed trees and power lines and even a few people needing to be  rescued from their flooding homes.

The National Weather Service called for a soundside storm surge from 2 to 4 feet as the remnants of Michael swept north and out to sea. The flooding peaked at 4 feet in Colington, and 5 feet at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. Many said it was the worst they’ve seen since Hurricane Irene in 2011.

In a news release Friday morning, officials in Kill Devil Hills put out a warning that summed up the aftermath.

”There is debris along roadways, propane tanks floating in stormwater, and snakes that have come up with the sound,” the town said.

In soundfront neighborhoods from Duck to Hatteras Island, residents and property owners spent the weekend cleaning up, piling mountains of debris and ruined property on the roadside.

Along Bay Drive in Kill Devil Hills, boats that floated away during the flood sat on side streets, yellow warning tape blocked broken piers and front yards were filled with property set out to dry.

A mountain of debris along Bay Drive in Kill Devil Hills. (Kari Pugh)

The street turned into something of a draw for the curious over the weekend, with cars traveling slowly up and down looking at the damage.

Fisher Farlow’s family scrawled a note in the dirt of their displaced boat, which wound up sitting along the bike and walking path thanks to the flood. It reads: “For sale. Pictures $5.00”

Despite the damage, residents and property owners along Bay Drive said they consider themselves lucky, noting the death and damage Michael brought to Florida and Virginia.

“What you’re seeing out here is neighbors helping neighbors,” Farlow said.

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Here’s what happened in Colington harbour. My concrete floor under the house is 7′ 2″ above mean tide, meaning on average the water is to come up alot to get to that mark. 2′ to 4′ tide surge may give me a couple of inches of water in my shop. We had 16″ of water under the house. Got the trucks and cars out. We’ve been cleaning out the rest so that next time most will be out of harms way and only junk will go to the side of the street. At our house unless we have another “Irene”… Read more »

James C Pyne

The warning was confusing. It referenced 2 to 4 feet above “ground level” and ground level varies so that is meaningless. The NOAA inundation map showed only a few areas in Colington would be flooded and ours was not included yet we got 18 inches under the house and the boat almost floated off the lift. Luckily I was able to get more lines on the boat during the storm, moved the car in time and didn’t have anything too valuable stored low under the house.


As little/no warning they EVERYONE had and the amount of damage caused, FEMA is still not offering assistance to Dare county! Something needs to be done about this ASAP! Too many families have lost a great deal and are suffering!

Just curious: how did Camp Hatteras fair in the storm? We left there two days early in fear of impending storm surge. Photos I’ve seen seem to confirm that we would have had serious damage had we stayed.


I’m not sure where five feet came from. My boat was on the lift at least six feet above the normal high water level and takes 18” to draw. It floated across Bay Drive and three houses down. At least an eight foot surge. I want to give thanks to the police officers who controlled the sightseers and traffic on Bay Dr. It was a comfort to know you could start cleaning up without getting run over. Also the fire department we on hand to lend a hand and were willing to assist in any way. I also want to… Read more »


Get tired of the complaining, it comes with the territory. Our ancestors lived here happily with a whole lot less. We are spoiled! All these McMansions and chain stores have not made life here better, just more expensive. So expensive in fact that natives are being forced out so that those looking to retire can move in and complain because of mother nature or heaven forbid they can’t travel on Hwy 12. Invest in a Jon boat!! Be blessed that you live in a place as close to heaven as you can get without being there yet!!

Windy Bill

Colington flooding was about 5 feet.


No mention of Dare County in this article, consistent with their silence during this devastating storm.