#Hurricane Florence

EMS service resumes on Ocracoke after mandatory evacuation

Hyde County EMS Training Director Hank Stowe is the first to drive back onto Ocracoke Island Sunday, Sept. 16, following lifting of the mandatory evacuation from Hurricane Florence. Photo by Richard Taylor

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Sept. 17, 2018

By Richard Taylor

Islanders who left Ocracoke due to last week’s mandatory evacuation from Hurricane Florence began returning Sunday from Swan Quarter, currently the only operational ferry to the island. 

Hyde County EMS training supervisor Hank Stowe was first to set foot on the island Sunday, as the MV Cedar Island docked at Silver Lake Harbor shortly after noon. Stowe drove one of Ocracoke’s  EMS ambulances, evacuated to Swan Quarter Sept. 11 in preparation for Hurricane Florence. 

Both Stowe and Paramedic Dana Long were happy to be back on the island. In mandatory evacuations, EMS personnel are required to leave on the last ferry from Ocracoke. In the last few years, when evacuations for major storms have been mandatory for visitors only, it allowed EMS personnel to remain on the island.

Stowe said they worked in the Hyde Emergency Operation Center in the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office in Swan Quarter helping Emergency Services Director Justin Gibbs, Public Information Officer Donnie Shumate, County Manager Kris Noble and others at the 24-hour center.

Stowe said the crew had plenty to do, even though the main force of Florence passed mostly south of Hyde.

“We stayed pretty busy,” he said. “Lots of calls were coming in. We were checking the roads and that sort of thing.”

Damaged N.C. 12 is closed between milepost 78 and the South Dock ferry terminal. Photo by Richard Taylor

Gibbs said 32 persons were evacuated by bus from mainland Hyde to two shelters, first to Knightdale High School east of Raleigh. When that shelter filled up, Stowe said some evacuees were sent to the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem‎.

Stowe advised those returning this week to remain vigilant since floodwaters are still rising as rivers and creeks are at flood stage or higher.

“This has been the slowest hurricane I think I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.

Conversations with residents showed that most had evacuated Ocracoke to family or friends elsewhere in the state and beyond.

Although Ocracoke United Methodist Church Pastor Richard Bryant and his family evacuated to Thomasville, the minister posted an abbreviated sermon and message via a live video stream on the church’s Facebook page Sunday.

“Lord, help us to be strong and faithful, Bryant said. “May we celebrate God’s love wherever we are in the areas of devastation.”

Bryant asked for donations to the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church to help those in need statewide. He said the church would be sending volunteers and supplies to affected areas beginning Sept. 19. He also prayed for safe travels for islanders returning this week, including the many teachers who did evacuate.

Fair weather returned to the island Sunday night, as gentle breezes whistled through the trees, kids again played hoops on the school’s new outside basketball court and fearless bikers dodged water-soaked streets and a half-full moon rose from the east to illuminate the island landscape. The school will reopen on Wednesday. 

Re-entry will continue through Thursday to be restricted and only residents, non-resident property owners, essential island and EMS personnel will be allowed to board. Visitors will be allowed onto the island beginning Friday.

Tuesday’s (Sept. 18) Swan Quarter–Ocracoke schedule will be as follows:
Swan Quarter departures: 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m.
Ocracoke departures: 7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 6:30 p.m.