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By Connie Leinbach
While islanders were busy battening down the hatches and serving their last customers, some visitors Friday morning were trying to figure out their next step in the wake of the visitors-only mandatory evacuation ordered Thursday afternoon.
The declaration was made by the Hyde County commissioners due to the major storm system Hermine which bounced from a tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane as it hit landfall in the Panhandle of Florida and back to a tropical storm as it worked its way through Georgia on its way to the Carolinas and beyond.
During the mandatory evacuation, visitor access has been temporarily restricted until further notice.
As of late Friday afternoon, the N.C Ferry Division suspended operations ferries to and from the island ceased with the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferries ceasing by 4:30 p.m.
The final ferry departing for Hatteras Island was at 5:30 p.m. and the last ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke will be at 6:45 p.m.
Only residents, homeowners, or vendors with an Ocracoke re-entry sticker on their vehicles were allowed on the in-bound ferries since the evacuation declaration was made.
All routes will resume operations as soon as it is safe to do so, the Ferry Division said.
Visitors with reservations next week are advised to call their rental companies after the storm passes to check on the current conditions.
Jonathan and Kyle Brown of Wake Forrest and Sean Benson of Fayetteville were at the ferry office late this morning to find out if and when a ferry would run to Swan Quarter.
At that time, ferry officials were not sure if and when there would be any more runs between the island and the mainland because of the five and a half-hour span each trip takes and the path of Tropical Storm Hermine as she moves up the coast from making landfall around 1 this morning in the Florida panhandle.
“We just got here Wednesday,” Kyle said about their abbreviated trip.
“I proposed to her here,” Jonathan said about their Labor Day holiday trip.
Benson and his wife, Tammy, also were celebrating their 21st wedding anniversary and had to leave.
Because of the evacuation declaration, lodging owners here had to ask them to leave.
“They were nice about it,” Benson said, adding that the hotelier refunded his money. “The local folks are so great,” he continued. “We try to come as often as possible, which is not often enough.”
Ocracoke’s community radio statio, WOVV, in between a playlist of songs about storms and rain, provided regular updates from the NC Ferry Division, Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Hyde County Government.
Some island businesses were open in the morning and some had closed.
Eduardo’s Taco Stand was open until 3 p.m.
Dana Long had a new batch of orange cream fudge owner Mark Justice had made Thursday night, but no customers.
Dajio restaurant closed after its breakfast shift and will be closed Saturday.
The Slushy Stand closed midday Friday and will be closed Saturday.
As long as there’s power on Saturday, Ocracoke Coffee will open at 7 a.m. until around midday, said owner Joelle LeBlanc.
The Ocracoke Oyster will be open for as long as possible tonight, and tomorrow as conditions allow.
“We have generator and staff that lives on premises,” said Kim Hansen, a server.
Zillie’s Island Pantry was open today and will be open as long as they can be tomorrow as well, said David Bundy, owner.
“We’ve got a good crowd here now,” he said at 5:30 today. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Jason’s Restaurant will close tonight at 7 and will probably not be open Saturday or Sunday, but hopes to be back open on Monday.
The Variety Store will close tonight at 8 and plans to open again tomorrow at 8 a.m. barring any major flooding.
Howard’s Pub was closed Friday and will open Saturday depending on the storm and status of the evacuation.
Gaffer’s is open for business as usual, said Ashley Harrell, co-owner.
The Back Porch is open tonight (Friday) and may be open Saturday depending on local interest, said Daphne Bennink, proprietor.
The Beachcomber gas station will be open its usual hours until 10 p.m. and be open tomorrow (Saturday) even if there’s a power outage since it has a generator.
But if water is high coming into the building, it will close, said proprietor Sean Death.
His other business, the Ocracoke Bar & Grille, will be open Friday and Saturday since they have a generator, Death said.
Hyde County government offices closed early today including the county health department and all solid waste convenience sites. As of now, offices are scheduled to reopen after Labor Day at 8 a.m. Tuesday (Sept. 6) and the Hyde County Board of Commissioners meeting is still on for 6 p.m. that day, too.