Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. 11:30 a.m. The Observer will continue to add stories on Hurricane Dorian on Ocracoke. Update at 12:44 p.m. regarding donations. See below. Further update 1:05 Sunday, Sept. 8, as to donations.
By Connie Leinbach
Ocracoke Island today is rallying after Hurricane Dorian caused major flooding Friday as it brushed by the island and made landfall in Hatteras.
This storm was “the big one,” leaving the island over washed in several feet of flood water, knocking out power and water and flooding homes, businesses and vehicles.
There was no loss of life, said Kris Cahoon Noble, Hyde County Manager, but a few people on Friday got air lifted off the island via the U.S. Coast Guard. Noble organized the arrival of several groups of state emergency responders Friday and today.
More than 90 percent of island structures received some kind of damage as the floodwater was the highest many longtime islanders had ever seen. The tide gauge at the ferry terminal dock registered a height of 7.4 feet at 8:30 a.m. Friday. By comparison, Hurricane Matthew’s surge in 2016 was 4.7 feet.
“We got hit hard,” said Tom Pahl, Ocracoke’s county commissioner. “Nobody was hurt; no houses were knocked down. We’re a resilient community; were already full on into recovery. That’s the story. The story isn’t that it’s a catastrophe. It’s a natural disaster. We got resources; we got people.”
“The state emergency management team are angels,” Pahl continued “This is what we need.”
Mike Riccitiello, a structure specialist with the North Carolina Emergency Task Force, is in one of six crews going door to door to document structural damage.
“One gentleman I talked to has lived on the island 65 years and said he’d never seen storm surge this bad,” Riccitiello said. “But everyone seems to be banding together.”
Islanders on Friday were assessing their homes, businesses and vehicles Friday afternoon.
Many houses and businesses were flooded and are now unlivable and unusable.
The number of homeowners displaced from their totaled homes is unknown at this time.
Many vehicles on known high ground took in water. The number of damaged buildings and vehicles island-wide is unknown but damage is being assessed by a private damage assessment group flown in Friday afternoon.
The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department was the hub of activity today as supplies of food, water and other items have been donated by the state emergency management and by friends on Cedar Island.
“It’s insane,” said Alex Garrish, who was taking a box of supplies home to his grandmother, Grace Gaskill, who lives along Irvin Garrish Highway. “She had a foot and a half of water in her house. She never had flooding before.”
Garrish, who manages the Jolly Roger Restaurant on the waterfront, said the restaurant is totaled. Others noted the Anchorage Marina and other docks are also destroyed.
Several groups of volunteer fire and first-responders from around North Carolina also are on the island helping.
Volunteers began arriving via helicopter Friday afternoon with bottled water and meals-ready-to-eat.
The Ocracoke Sanitary District shut off the water yesterday when the generator was damaged.
A service tech was scheduled to be on the 8 a.m. Swan Quarter ferry with parts for the generator, said David Tolson, water plant manager. Once the generator is fixed, water service may be intermittent due to the number of possible water leaks. Homeowners can help by checking your pipes under your house for leaks after the water is on.
Once the water is turned back on, Ocracoke will be under a boil water advisory until further notice.
Tideland Electric Member Cooperative reported that crews arrived on Hatteras Island this morning and are assessing the infrastructure on the south end of Hatteras Island and on N.C. Highway 12 from the north end of Ocracoke Island to the village.
Many are contacting folks on the island with offers of donations and to help. The Hyde County Emergency Operations Center is coordinating all that. Call 833-543-3248 to donate goods and services, but please be patient as they are getting inundated with calls.