Monthly Archives: September 2011


The post storm recovery has been a unique experience. In many ways, it’s much more stressful than the storm itself. Hurricane Irene feels like it was just last week, pummeling the villages of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo. The time of day and the day of the week are remote concepts. It is not business as usual. For me personally, I have experienced emotional highs and lows. One moment I see the devastation of my neighbors’ flooded homes, and then next, I’m witnessing people coming together with incredible support.

Right after the storm, I D Midgett was reunited with his grand-daughter, Bryanna. Both of their homes were inundated with sound tide, and are unlivable. Neighbors have opened up their homes to accommodate them, while they rebuild.

The Volunteer Fire Departments have been instrumental in maintaining everyone’s safety. Hours after the storm’s exit, they were out doing things like checking leaking gas tanks, and later, righting headstones in family cemeteries. Here, Tom Murphy and Jim Shimpach discuss recovery with a rescue squad worker.

Tombstones lay flat on the ground at the ravaged cemetery in the Salvo Day Use Area.

Then there are the volunteers from communities to our south. They came in droves offering a tremendous amount of manpower, stripping houses of water damaged materials, furniture, appliances and cleaning up tons of debris. Russell, Mole and Wolfie (above) drove up from Buxton to lend a hand. They were at my house tearing down plywood underpinning and wet insulation. Then they went on helping many others in need, for several days.

The Salvation Army was here almost immediately, bringing in food and supplies so desperately needed. Not only that but they always greeted us with smiles and uplifting spirits.

The North Carolina Baptist Men brought in portable laundromats and hot showers. And with the Salvation Army scaling back, the Baptist Men are preparing our hot meals every day. Yesterday two of them drove up to my neighbor’s house and offered to spray the underside of her floor to kill any mold that had started. Then they came over to treat the underside of my house, and after that to my other neighbor’s house.

All these selfless people are heros in my book. I could go on and on. From the Dare County Health Department giving out tetanus shots, to Tilghman Gray bringing up a load of fresh bluefish and putting on the best fish fry ever.

The vegetation that would normally be green this time of year, has turned a golden brown from harsh salt spray.

The rack line in the marsh behind my house is deep in washed-up debris.

The landfill at the day use area is enormous, and many of the rental homes have not even been dealt with yet.

A pile of lost hopes and dreams continues to grow.

And the battle for the S-Curve continues to be waged.

Building a line of large sand bags is a first line of defense.

Will man ever be able to tame Hatteras Island?

Weather permitting, the sand dike gets higher and higher.

One load gets dumped, and another empty truck runs to Avon for more sand. They must have trucked over 3,000 loads by now.

Meanwhile at Mirlo Beach, the future looks mighty grim.

Irene, the New Benchmark

Despite our well intentioned preparations, hurricane Irene took everyone in our villages by surprise. I knew we were going to have a significant storm surge from the Pamlico Sound, as in storms of the past, but not to the extent that we got. In 2003, Isabel brought in 18 inches of water on my property. Floyd in 1999 was 24 inches. Bonnie in 1998 had 26 inches. The March storm of 1993 flooded with 50 inches of tide, and Irene came in with a whopping 66 inches. According to some of the old timers, the storm of 1944 was a benchmark by which other storms were compared. Flooding back then was apparently somewhere between the March storm and Irene. Hurricane Irene brought in more storm surge from the sound than any storm for the last 75 years. It is now the new benchmark for soundside flooding in our villages on this part of Hatteras Island.

Boarded up, an all too familiar sight.

Pamlico Sound tide blown out upon Irene’s approach.

Tide coming in ahead of the wind shift.

Smoke on the water as the shifted southwest wind picks up, blowing 50 to 60.

During a lull, I ventured to the beach for a shot at the ocean.

It was pure chaos, and I had trouble making it back to the house.

Good thing I wore my chest waders. 3 feet of water had already entered my yard, and I had 5 cats to rescue from the rising water. The barometer had dipped to 964 millibars and in the end dumped 6 feet of sound tide around my house. The water had risen to within a fraction of an inch from coming inside. We were extremely lucky.

I took this screen shot of my computer, using a battery backup, right after the power went off.

The next morning after the storm, the yard was a mess with debris.

The tide had gone right up to my heat pumps, and then some.

This is highway 12 in front of my house after the storm. It was eerily quiet, warm and damp. I would soon find out that many residents did not fare as well as I did. The road down the island had also been washed out.

There were many homes damaged or lost.

And of course, the electricity was cut off.

Also as a result, the cottage Tailwinds eventually fell into the sea.

The road at Mirlo Beach was destroyed.

A leaner at Mirlo Beach.

Highway 12 at the S-Curve.

A new inlet had been cut at the S-Curve, exposing cypress stumps of a forest nearly a thousand years old.

The inlet is actually an outlet caused from the sound rushing into the sea.

Another outlet was carved through North Beach Campground in Rodanthe.

A motor home at North Beach.

Gerald O’Neal surveys the mess at his family-run campground.

The campground’s general store was inundated with sound tide.

Lance Midgett’s house is over 100 years old. This is the first time a tide from Pamlico Sound has gone inside. His cleanup and rebuilding will take a long time.

As residents take on the daunting effort of rebuilding, debris is piling up along highway 12.

Since the day after Irene left, the Salvation Army has been there to help those in need.

They are providing 3 hot meals every day,as well as lifting our spirits.

Now the ferry system is the only way on and off the island.

For days, trucks have been running around the clock to deliver sand from a borrow pit in Avon. NCDOT hopes to fill in the gap at S-Curve cut by the storm surge.

Pallets are moved into place to enable trucks to dump sand for a new roadway. In the meantime, huge swells from Hurricane Katia threaten the shoreline.

Do you think this is really going to work? This is a classic “man against nature” scenario.

Meanwhile the debris continues to pile up along highway 12. This is far from over.