On Hatteras and Ocracoke, the recovery begins

By on September 9, 2019

Hundreds said to be displaced on Ocracoke

Impact of Hurricane Dorian on Ocracoke Island. (Photo by Moon Dennis)

Recovery efforts on the hard-hit Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands have been in full force as local, state and federal responders move in to help the two communities back on their feet following the historic flooding and significant wind damage wrought by Hurricane Dorian.

Emergency Operations Centers have been set up on the islands to provide assistance to the residents impacted by the storm. Some officials estimate that up to 80 percent of homes of full-time residents on Ocracoke, primarily ones on lower ground, have suffered significant water damage and left hundreds displaced. As material donations pour in and officials assess the island’s needs, they are currently asking for monetary donations as well as generators to help with recovery efforts.

Flooding on Hatteras (photo by Daniel Pullen Photography | Daniel Pullen Instagram)

On Hatteras Island, damage assessments have not been released by Dare County, but locals interviewed by the Voice say that the hardest hit areas include Frisco and Buxton. The Cape Hatteras United Methodist Men (CHUMM), as of Sunday, had a list of 40 victims seeking assistance in Dorian’s wake, however officials expected that number to grow and say there many more who have suffered damages. As for Cape Hatteras Secondary School, the building lost a large part of its roof during the storm and about one-third of the building has been left with significant damage.

“This is not our first rodeo,” noted Hatteras Island’s representative on the Dare County Board of Commissioners Danny Couch. Couch said the fact that dozens of homes were elevated in Buxton as a result of past storms, particularly Matthew, has helped stave off what “could have been an unmitigated disaster…Had this happened five to eight years ago, we’d be holding our head in our hands, but we’ve learned from Irene, Isabel and Matthew.”

Couch said locals took this storm seriously and were prepared, moving many vehicles to higher ground. Also, as a result of Hurricane Matthew damage in 2016, carpets were replaced with hardwood flooring to minimize flood damage in a number of homes.

As for Dorian’s aftermath, Couch observed that, “Chainsaws are running from dawn to dusk [to clear roads and debris]. We know what we’re doing and we’re going to get back up on our feet.”

CHUMM’s Dennis Carroll echoed Couch’s sentiments, noting that there are a lot fewer victims on Hatteras than after Hurricane Matthew. But he acknowledged that residents here face some serious water damage and that a team from Dare County Department of Social Services, along with Emergency Management and first responder crews were working out of the Hatteras Volunteer Fire Department.

CHUMM is also working closely with the local North Carolina Baptist Men chapter to provide materials. Carroll said the Baptist group showed up quickly to begin removing downed trees and mucking out water-damaged homes. And as the days pass, he noted, “We’ve had full power restored, the roads are open, and we are good to go. We are focused now on saving individual belongings…and trying to control mold.”

But for now, he said, yard clean up can wait.

The scene was more serious on Ocracoke Island, which was hit by historic flooding that left several hundred people trapped during the height of Dorian’s fury as it clipped the island and churned toward Hatteras on Sept. 6.

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Photos by Daniel Pullen Photography | Daniel Pullen Instagram

 

The National Guard, state and county Emergency Management crews, along with Emergency Management Services and crisis workers from Hyde and neighboring counties descended on Ocracoke following the storm to help.

“This was apparently higher flooding than we’ve experienced since the [Great Atlantic] Hurricane of 1944,” said Tom Pahl, Ocracoke’s representative on the Hyde County Board of Commissioners.  Noting that it was two to three times higher than the flooding the island experienced during Hurricane Matthew, he added that, “There’s been a tremendous amount of damage to hundreds of homes. People have been displaced, have lost food, bedding and needing places to sleep. Almost everyone has lost their cars. Hundreds of cars and trucks have been flooded and destroyed.”

Power has not been restored to the island and many residents are faced with their home’s meters needing to be pulled as a result of the flooding.

“At least a third of the houses were so compromised by flooding that Tideland Electric has had to pull the meters on the houses,” noted Pahl, who said that estimate is likely to be closer to fifty percent of the homes that were occupied.

He added that the need for generators, which have been arriving on the island, will continue for some time.  “There are hundreds of people who need generators,” Pahl said, adding that it will be a weeks-long process for some houses to become certified to hook back to the grid.

And while water has been restored, a water boil advisory remains in effect. “Sanitation is an issue. Clean water is an issue,” Pahl explained, but he pointed out that the island has ample food and water for at least a week to 10 days thanks to generous donations. “The response was immediate and overwhelming in terms of donations flowing in.”

In the days ahead, he said, monetary donations made through the Outer Banks Community Foundation’s disaster relief fund will be the most beneficial to relief efforts.

Mary Ellon Ballance, a Hatteras Island resident and Dare County School Board member, headed to Ocracoke in the days following the storm to help organize relief efforts. She estimated that 200 of the homes on the island were occupied during the storm and that many older homes where full-time residents live, were damaged.

“This is Hurricane Isabel times ten,” Ballance asserted.

After Hurricane Matthew, Ballance worked to establish recovery infrastructure Hatteras and also went to Ocracoke to help there. Recovery, she said, takes time. “There are stages of demolition that have to be done before rebuilding can start,” Balance noted.

In the end, Pahl said that the Ocracoke community has been “moved beyond gratitude by the response of friends and neighbors near and far.”

As for the mood and morale on the island, he said residents are holding up well but, “There are the ups and downs kind of moments. We’re all under stress as we adapt to these circumstances. It’s the rare person who says I was lucky the water that didn’t come into my house.”

To make a monetary donation to the recovery efforts on Ocracoke Island and Hatteras Island, go to www.obcf.org/donate-now/disaster-relief-fund-donate. Or to make a donation to disaster relief efforts on Hatteras Island, donations can be mailed to the Cape Hatteras United Methodist Men, P.O. Box 1591, Buxton, NC 27920.

 

 

 

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