As this storm approaches, we will have more updates.
Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, 3:12 p.m.
By Connie Leinbach
Tuesday on Ocracoke was nearly a ghost town as all visitors and many residents left ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence.
Islanders were at the Variety Store shopping and chatting with their neighbors and debating about leaving or staying.
“I’m staying because all of my family is here,” said Candy Gaskill.
Allison O’Neal and her family are staying because they don’t have anywhere to go except a hotel room somewhere.
“And I can’t afford that,” she said.
Tommy Hutcherson, Variety Store proprietor, said the store will be open as weather permits.
Many who stay, like Gaskill, noted that when they had left for prior hurricanes, getting back to the island was difficult.
“The one I left for 20 years ago, I was far more traumatized than those who stayed,” said John Ivey Wells.
As Vince O’Neal boarded up his Pony Island Restaurant, he was undecided Tuesday as to whether to go or stay.
“If it’s a category 3 or 4 (storm), you don’t want to be here,” he said.
He noted that the storms (then unnamed) of 1933 and 1944 are the benchmark.
“(Water from) the ’44 storm went over the lighthouse fence,” he said, and that is one of the highest spots on the island.
Native “O’cocker” Rex O’Neal and his wife Miggy, caught the last ferry to Hatteras Island at 8 a.m. today. Although Rex wanted to stay as he has through many hurricanes, Miggy was getting nervous. So they took the opportunity to visit family in Nags Head.
“I was still undecided last night,” O’Neal said in a telephone interview. “Normally, I do stay. I wasn’t worried about it, but my wife was.”
O’Neal said he likes to be outside during hurricanes to watch everything, but the forecast of 110 mph winds was a deciding factor.
“I’ve been in 110 mile-per-hour winds and you can’t hardly stand up,” he said. “A category 4 hurricane is nothing to play with.”
Ocracoke’s county commissioner, Tom Pahl, is staying on the island and fielding calls from various media around the nation.
“It’s a nice beautiful day here,” he said Wednesday morning, as he prepped to be interviewed by Wolf Blitzer today on CNN.
The ferries stopped running this morning, and EMS personnel have relocated to mainland Hyde in the Charlie Cahoon Public Safety Center, 1223 Main St., Swam Quarter, said Justin Gibbs, Hyde County Emergency Manager. The Ocracoke ambulances boarded the last ferry to Swan Quarter to avoid being damaged by flooding.
The Ferry Division announced that they evacuated 2,181 people and transported 1,074 vehicles from Ocracoke on the Hatteras, Cedar Island and Swan Quarter routes between 1 p.m. Monday and today. Gibbs estimated 100 to 200 people still on the island and said he’s still pushing for mainlanders to evacuate.
The designated evacuation shelter for Hyde County residents opened yesterday at Knightdale High School, 100 Bryan Chalk Lane, Knightdale, NC 27545. The shelter is pet friendly and equipped to handle animals. Update Sept. 13: This shelter is now full. North Carolina Emergency Management officials have reported that all Wake County shelters are full. They are now directing anyone that still needs to evacuate to LJVM Coliseum, 2825 University Parkway, Winston-Salem, NC 27105. For any assistance finding shelters, call 211.
Gibbs said there’s still a lot of uncertainty with this extremely dangerous storm. The forecast is for tropical storm-force winds starting to hit the island later today. Massive waves of up to 83 feet were measured inside the storm today, the National Hurricane Center’s Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch said.
“Any slight wobble in the storm track could yield extreme effects for Hyde County from storm surge and rainfall,” Gibbs said.
He said with the wind direction, the most vulnerable areas of Hyde County are Scranton and Ponzer because of their proximity to the Pungo River.
While the track has shifted to the south and west overnight, do not let your guard down, said a press release from Dare County.
The storm is forecast to slow down as it reaches the North Carolina coast and the path may change as it makes landfall due to slow movement and weak steering currents. The latest National Weather Center reports show the storm curving south before crossing onto land at the border of the Carolinas.
The island’s weather was hot and sunny on Tuesday, and while the National Park Service had closed the beach ramps for cars, two surfers headed to the still-calm surf at the Lifeguard Beach.
“We’re going out in the water for a couple of hours,” said Marcus Penell, who was accompanied by Waylon Underwood.