By Connie Leinbach
Captain Jason Daniels of the Hyde County Sheriff’s Department had a mission Tuesday morning as he and Deputy Blackburn Warner drove their “hurricane truck” from Jackson Circle to downtown.
“We were on an Ocracats mission,” he said.
Mickey Baker and Carmie Prete, who own Mermaid’s Folly in the village, had not been able to get out of their flooded Jackson Circle home for more than two days with the arrival of Hurricane Joaquin.
“We tried to walk down Jackson Circle at low tide yesterday, but the water was rushing,” Mickey said, noting that their house at the edge of the marsh is almost in the Sound. “You can slip easily in the water and drown. You can’t drown in snow.”
But on Tuesday, they got a call from Baker seeking help to feed hers and Prete’s cats at their shop.
Daniels and Warner picked them up in the five-ton, military cargo truck Daniels had brought over on Thursday from the mainland, which moved through the watery streets at about 5 mph.
Later in the day, Daniels transported Sharon Miller to the Ocracoke Convenience Site so that she could feed a feral cat colony there. This is one of several colonies of feral cats on the island. Most all of the cats are fixed, but islanders continue to feed and watch over them.
Baker and Prete take care of a colony of about 14 in the Jackson Circle area. They are members of Ocracats, Inc., a nonprofit group dedicated to overseeing the feral cat population on the island. The group recently had a three-day spay-neuter clinic in the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department building at which more than 40 cats were spayed or neutered and released back to where they had been trapped.
“We gotta take care of the cats,” Daniels said about the trips he made on Tuesday. He also helped the mail service by assisting Melissa Sharber, postal worker, with a lift through the flooded Highway 12 to the post office, but stressed that the vehicle was not a general taxi service.
Daniels explained that this truck was brought in as an addition to the EMS vehicles on the island.
“If we get an EMS call, we can get to that person and bring them back to the rescue squad,” Daniels said.
The Hyde County commissioners declared a mandatory evacuation due to Hurricane Joaquin on Thursday, and typically in a mandatory evacuation, all EMS personnel must leave the island on the last ferry. After that, islanders who choose to stay during a hurricane are on their own.
However, the evacuation was lifted on Saturday, well before Joaquin arrived.
So there were EMS personnel on the island as the rain came and flood waters rose on Sunday.
Waters are much receded today (Wednesday), and at 2:30 p.m. it was announced by the NC Ferry Division that today there would be a 4:00 p.m. Ocracoke to Cedar Island run.
At 5:00 p.m. a ferry will run from Swan Quarter to Ocracoke for residents, property owners, vendors, emergency personnel and utility workers only.