August 1, 2014
When a community borders on the potential for a disaster, criticism of how things were handled is inevitable. Regarding Hurricane Arthur July 4, the Observer received many such comments before, In the case of how Hyde County handled the vagaries of Arthur, there certainly is some needed critical analysis of what went right, what went wrong and how to improve communication on evacuation and safety procedures, especially for our visitors. Ocracoke is not Asheville. Ocracoke is smack in the middle of Hurricane Alley. Through the centuries, the people here have experienced a hurricane or two. Based on their experience, islanders know that hurricanes can quickly shift direction and wind speed. This is exactly what happened with Arthur, when a day before its arrival it was upgraded to a Category 2 and its approach shifted to arrive from the sound–both major causes for concern.
While the county has the means to get island feedback from the Ocracoke Deputy Control Group prior to an evacuation decision, as per the Hyde County Emergency Operations Plan, the group wasn’t consulted. In an emergency meeting of the commissioners and county manager County Commissioner John Fletcher, who represents Ocracoke, advocated for voluntary evacuation while the storm was still listed as “tropical,” to which the other commissioners agreed. The local Control Group rallied on its own and admirably planned for a major hit. Hyde County updated its emergency plan a few years ago. It is a protocol that can provide continuity. You can read the 2004 version here: http://coastal.geology.ecu. edu/NCCOHAZ/county_HMP/ EOP_Hyde.pdf
The newer version is not online, according to Darlene Styron, who was the Ocracoke commissioner when the latest version was done. Many islanders have told us that evacuation should be mandatory with named hurricanes since the primary concern with these unpredictable storms is public safety first, and we have to agree.
But one should not just criticize. When good work is done under trying circumstances, it should be acknowledged. A huge thank-you goes to our local infrastructure workers with NCDOT, the Ferry Division, Belhaven Cable, Hyde County and Tideland EMC.
Tideland was truly amazing in restoring full power in such a short amount of time (a little over two days). Their expert work included fixing or repairing 41 poles along Highway 12 and the village and removing branches dangerously hanging onto wires.
Fortunately, the emergency generator on rolling power was not overloaded, with so many visitors still here. Special thanks to Paul Flythe, who is employed by North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation which owns the Ocracoke generator, and who came to Ocracoke to operate it. Many Tideland employees and subcontractors helped quell this emergency. According to Heidi Smith, Tideland spokesperson, the following helped: six Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative linemen, who worked on our five broken poles south of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum; 31 Lee Electrical crew members (five of whom were already on the island before the storm hit; the other 26 arrived July 5). We commend the company’s prescient management, who staged the crews and got replacement poles on the island before the storm.
There are many Tideland employees who helped resolve this emergency whose names we do not have.
We do, however, have the names of the island staff. Month”: Bobby O’Neal, Justin Boor, Matt DeVan, Joe Smith and Rachel O’Neal.
Hurricane season is far from over and it is comforting to know the dedication of those on the front line.