Hurricane Dorian on Ocracoke

Dorian vignettes

By Peter Vankevich

For years, people will have stories to recount on how Hurricane Dorian impacted Ocracoke–the bad, the good and the wry. A little humor can get one through difficult times. Here are some impressionistic observations from the days right after the hurricane battered the island. 

Noise solution
Soon after Hurricane Dorian passed, the sound of the howling winds was replaced by the distant hum of generators. When power was restored a few days later, the whiny sound of chainsaws cutting down trees and blowers drying out buildings took over. Then came the back-up beeps and loud thumps of removing the large amount of debris along the roads.

Voting
Dorian struck four days before the Sept. 10 special election to choose Ocracoke’s House member of the U.S. Congress.

But the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, the usual polling place, was the disaster recovery center and filled with donated food, cleaning supplies and much more. Emergency meetings were constantly taking place as everyone mobilized to stabilize the community that went for three days without power and drinkable water.

Changing the location on voting day was out of the question. The solution? A tent was set up alongside the building. The voting equipment and the island’s trained election staff were ready.

In front of the tent that morning was a table and people congregating.

Assuming it was a checkpoint to verify voting, I approached the table and was asked if I wanted a tetanus shot.

No, I said. I was here to vote.

“Just head into the tent, then,” she said. “We’re giving out free tetanus shots and this was where they placed us. Do you want a shot?”

I thought for a moment and said I wasn’t sure when I last had one, but it had been a few years. If it’s been that long, it wouldn’t hurt to get another, she said. So, I got a tetanus shot and proceeded into the tent to do my civic duty of voting.

Only on Ocracoke did one have the option of getting a tetanus shot before voting.

A follow-up: Greg Murphy (R-Pitt County) won the election and visited the island a few days after being sworn in.

If this happens
The Ocracoke Preservation Society’s museum next to the big NPS parking lot had never been flooded. “If that building ever gets flooded, this island will be in big trouble,” someone once remarked. The museum suffered flood damage with five inches of water inside.

Biblical proportions
The two weeks following Dorian, the fire trucks were relocated across the street and the OVFD bays were filled with tables of food and supplies and were quickly replenished as people took items. On one table one morning were four loaves of bread.  In the afternoon, after more food supplies arrived, the loaves increased to more than 100.

Pirates vs. Hurricanes
The first Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree was scheduled for 2011. Hurricane Irene caused its cancellation.  Hurricane Sandy put the kibosh on the next attempt in 2012.

After two missed years, the Jamboree debuted in 2013 and ran successfully for the next two years (2014, 2015).  Then Matthew (2016) caused another cancellation.  Two more jamborees took place. Last year was particularly significant with the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s demise off Springer’s Point in 1718. Hurricane Dorian shut down the island forcing another cancellation.

So, as it stands, the Pirates lead the Hurricanes 5 to 4.

A thank-you to all
At the town hall meeting Sept. 29, Ocracoke’s County Commissioner Tom Pahl, who along with Hyde County Manager Kris Noble, several other Hyde County officials and numerous volunteers, talked about the flood aftermath and of generosity since Sept. 6.

How do you say thank you for the more than 21,000 volunteer hours, plus all the neighbors helping neighbors? That’s gotta be double, plus all the things we’ve received—the commodities, generators. It’s overwhelming to be on the receiving end of that generosity.

The size of the thank you is just beyond words.

The day after the storm, we set up roadblocks and a blockade out in the water and we put a ban on airplanes flying into the airport to control who comes to the island during that particularly vulnerable period.

We had friends of ours from across the water who violated our blockade in order to bring donated supplies. We started calling them the pirate donors and the spirit of Blackbeard.

And I don’t know who was responsible for the Rice Krispies Treats, but they have been my primary source of nutrition for the past week.

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