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Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018; 3 p.m.
Updated Sept. 20 with corrected time for the Down Creek Gallery opening Sept. 26.
By Rita Thiel
Hurricane Florence did little damage to Ocracoke’s structures, but ocean overwash along two miles of N.C. 12 at the north end shows the power of the storm that the majority of the island was fortunate enough to miss.
Following the mandatory evacuation order for visitors Sept. 10, the island became a visitor ghost town, and many residents scurried to prepare for their own evacuation off island. Businesses closed, and many boarded their windows and doors in preparation for the predicted hurricane-force winds.
As of Friday (Sept. 21), the evacuation order will be lifted, and visitors will be allowed back on Ocracoke via the Swan Quarter ferry only. There is still no time-table on when the Hatteras and Cedar Island terminals will be operational.
Re-entry for non-resident property owners, residents, essential island and EMS personnel will continue on a first-come, first-served and according to the re-entry priority list below until Friday.
The N.C. Ferry Division added a fifth boat from Swan Quarter starting Tuesday (see schedule below) to accommodate islanders who may need to go off island and return the same day. Ocracoke’s County Commissioner Tom Pahl said that the ferry schedule is a juggling act–balancing of our needs, needs elsewhere (including emergency supplies in Cedar Island), Coast Guard regulations and the availability of crew, boats and equipment.
Ocracoke restaurants and retail shops are eagerly awaiting the return of the visitors.
“We are ready for everyone to come back,” said Marissa Gross, owner of Down Creek Gallery. Voicing a common sentiment, Gross said, “I’m not sure why they (visitors) aren’t back yet. We didn’t get much damage, and we’re ready to go. We’re open; come on in!”
Down Creek Gallery will hold its last art opening for the season from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wed., Sept. 26, featuring new works by Kitty Martin Mitchell, Debbie Wells and Crystal Canterbury.
“We have full service mail now,” said Celeste Brooks, Ocracoke postmaster. “We are getting mail deliveries as of Monday, and we are able to send mail out as of today (Sept. 18).”
However, outgoing mail from Ocracoke needs to be at the post office by noon, not 12:30 as it was previously, in order to make the Swan Quarter ferry leaving from Ocracoke at 12:30 p.m., she said.
As most of N.C. is affected by flood waters, don’t expect too much mail or many packages to be delivered yet.
“We expect two trucks from UPS tomorrow,” Brooks said about packages. “We’re waiting to hear from our FedEx delivery person.”
Thursday is the delivery day for the grocery stores and restaurants. Some island suppliers have been affected by flood waters and other arrangements will be made for those deliveries. All deliveries will be through the Swan Quarter route.
Ocracoke Island Realty (OIR) will accept reservations as of Friday, Sept.21, when the visitors are permitted back on the island.
If you have reservations or want to inquire about a new reservation, contact the realty office at 252-928-6261. OIR used several methods to alert their clients of the evacuation order: text alerts, emails and an app that provided the information their clients needed.
The EMS service is up and running and the Ocracoke Health Center has been open since Monday. The U.S. Coast Guard has been delivering prescriptions to the island.
As of Friday, most businesses and restaurants will be open with a few deciding between opening Friday or Saturday.
Residents were cleared to return to the island on Sunday and are returning this week ahead of visitors to get ready.