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Hurricane Matthew passes; island inundated

Jesse Spencer ferries Tideland EMC worker Bobby O'Neal to the office. Walking around the island in chest waders are Byron Miller, left, and Bert Clark, right. Photo: C. Leinbach

Jesse Spencer pauses along Sunset Drive while ferrying Tideland EMC worker Bobby O’Neal to the office. Walking around the island in chest waders are Byron Miller, left, and Bert Clark, right. Photo: C. Leinbach

Oct. 9, 2016, 4 p.m.

For Ocracoke news, click here.

By Connie Leinbach

Hurricane Matthew brushed by Ocracoke last night bringing high winds and high storm surge.

Windy conditions began Saturday evening then struck in earnest around 4 a.m. today (Sunday) until mid-morning.

Power went out island-wide around 4:30 a.m., and word today from Tideland Electric Membership Corporation said four poles on the beach were broken. Power would not be restored today as repairs will depend on flood levels.  

Hyde County Manager Bill Rich said the word he got from Tideland was they were hopeful the power would be restored later Monday. As of 4:30 p.m., there was no word from Tideland about starting up the generator on the island.

Islanders were out at first light walking in the flooded streets.

“It’s the most water I’ve ever seen in my 41 years,” said islander Valerie Mason this afternoon, adding that the water has gone down a great deal since this morning.

Her husband, Kenny, walked around and took pictures of islanders’ cars at the NPS parking lot, which is a spot where many islanders park their cars in such weather events.

“The NPS parking lot was a moat,” she said about the surrounding water on the roads.

Tom Pahl, left, and Bob Chestnut in the garb of the day--chest waders. Photo: P. Vankevich

Tom Pahl, left, and Bob Chestnut in the garb of the day–chest waders. Photo: P. Vankevich

Mason, who has a portable generator, has posted numerous photos of the flooding on Facebook.

Jesse Spencer, who has the Beach Tow business here, was out in his motor boat around 8:30 a.m. picking up workers for Tideland and the water plant.

“I have about six inches more of tide in my yard than for Hurricane Alex,” he said. Alex, which struck the island in 2004, was the highest recorded flood waters on the island.

Matthew’s surge numbers may make a new record.

 Though the Ocracoke Deputy Control Group was supposed to meet today, conditions did not allow it, said Rich.

“Too many people don’t have power to their cell phones,” he said.  The group will meet tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.

Bob Cooley slogs through waist-high water at 7 a.m. Sunday. Photo: C. Leinbach

Bob Cooley slogs through waist-high water at 7 a.m. Sunday. Photo: C. Leinbach

Justin Gibbs, Hyde County Emergency Services Director, said in an interview that there were no rescues of anyone on either Ocracoke or the mainland.  There was minor damage and less storm surge than the last two storms.

“Then the wind shifted out of the north, it pushed a lot of the water out,” he said about the mainland, which experienced significant flooding from Hurricane Hermine over the Labor Day weekend.

“It’s a historic event for Ocracoke,” he said about Matthew. “I’m just pleased everyone made it through safely. We have material damage, but that can be rebuilt.
Across the state, flooding and damage has been considerably higher.

“People evacuating from South Carolina went to the North Carolina piedmont area and had to be re-evacuated from there,” Gibbs said. “(Elsewhere) there have been deaths and people missing.”

It was a frustrating storm owing to Matthew’s shifts and changes, and Gibbs said a mandatory evacuation for residents would have resulted in sending them also into the middle of the state.

The storm surge level Gibbs recorded was four feet seven inches, Gibbs reported.

 From the National Weather Service, on the forecast track as of 2 p.m., the center of Matthew was moving farther offshore of the coast of the North Carolina Outer Banks this afternoon and tonight. A gradual weakening is forecast during the next day or so, and the low is expected to be absorbed within a frontal boundary Monday night.

Tropical storm conditions are expected to continue over the warning area are diminishing.

Storm surge:  While levels should subside by this evening the rising tide and wind are still a factor.

The Ocracoke Variety Store is open until 6 p.m. tonight and will open again at 8 a.m.

Ocracoke School is cancelled tomorrow (Monday).

The N.C. Ferry Division has not issued any information as to when ferry service will resume.

WOVV lost its transmission tower for 90.1 FM, but is still broadcasting at wovv.org.

The transmission antenna for WOVV 90.1 FM went down in the storm. The station is broadcasting online at WOVV.org. Photo: P. Vankevich

The transmission antenna for WOVV 90.1 FM went down in the storm. The station is broadcasting online at WOVV.org. Photo: P. Vankevich

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