Hurricane Dorian on Ocracoke

Mail for Ocracoke is in; volunteers coordinate the avalanche of offers of help

Ocracoke Postmaster Celeste Brooks on Tuesday received six days worth of mail for islanders who can pick up their mail starting Wednesday at 8 a.m. at the OVFD. Photo: C. Leinbach

Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. 6:48 p.m.

By Connie Leinbach

Celeste Brooks, Ocracoke Island postmaster, today got a van from which she will be doing mail call from the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department.

Brooks said her hours will begin at 8 a.m.

She has six days’ worth of mail in various trays to go through for each islander.

“Then there are the packages,” she said, but all may come to the fire department to get their mail.

The postal van arrived on the island today, she said. Then, Brooks had to drive the driver back to the ferry dock at Silver Lake so that the driver could get back to Swan Quarter.

This illustrates the logistics challenges of getting goods and help to the island during this unprecedented natural disaster called Hurricane Dorian, which inundated the island at a record-breaking height of about seven feet.

Since Dorian lashed and inundated the island Sept. 6, Ocracoke has received an overwhelming response of offers to help–food, physical labor, goods and cash donations.

The National Guard and islanders unload donations of rakes and shovels. Photo: C. Leinbach

The island needs help all at once in several areas—supplies, labor to help muck out houses and rebuild, food service and more.

Volunteers are working around the clock to answer and accommodate all of requests to help. However Ocracoke is not like other places where you can come and go easily. Everyone in a vehicle has to get to Ocracoke by ferry.

“What makes this place quaint and attractive is its remoteness,” said Alicia Peel, an islander answering the hundreds of emails ocracokedisasterrelief@gmail.com is receiving daily with offers of help. “But that also makes it hard to get stuff and people here.”

She, Darlene Styron, Ivey Belch and Hyde County officials are working nonstop daily to coordinate all of the stuff and work forces pouring into the island while it still is under a mandatory evacuation order.

The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department is rapidly filling up with food, personal items, cleaning supplies, clothes, paper goods and more.  Some of the goods are being stored at the air strip, but that’s not a good long-term spot since it’s out in the open.

“Items have to be authorized and scheduled onto the ferries,” Styron said.

Those who email with offers of help will get a canned response, but that is not meant to blow you off, Peel said.

“This disaster isn’t about individuals,” she said. “It’s about our community as a whole. We understand many individuals love our island as much as we do.  We don’t have accommodations for all the stuff people want to send this week.”

Ocracoke islanders will need help and supplies next week and for several weeks and months after that.

But right now, the local volunteers are not able to accommodate individual offers of help.

Styron, Peel and Hyde County officials ask for patience and may direct to individuals to various groups who have experience facilitating large groups of volunteers, such as Samaritans Purse, North Carolina Baptists on Mission, Christian Aid Ministry.

Raoul Ibarra, who works at the Ocracoke Variety Store, is at the refrigerated truck selling milk, eggs and cheese. Meat will be available later, said Tommy Hutcherson, proprietor. Photo: C. Leinbach

A Red Cross food truck circles the island offering food and snacks to islanders. Photo: C. Leinbach

1 reply »

  1. Wonderful news! Thanks again for keeping us off-islanders so very well informed of the happenings on our beloved Ocracoke. Take care Connie and Peter!