Beaches open, but huge recovery job remains

Mike Stanley, owner of the Bogue Inlet Pier, drives a tractor down the beach past tourists as he helps clean up the aera in Emerald Isle, N.C., Monday, Aug. 29, 2011 . As more roads opened and the power came back two days after Hurricane Irene swept through, people who depend on tourists for their livelihoods had no guarantee whether visitors would come for summer's traditional last hurrah. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
August 30, 2011 6:53:11 PM PDT
Finishing a second day of touring damage from Hurricane Irene, Governor Beverly Perdue proclaimed that beaches were open for business but also asked the federal government to declare seven coastal counties disaster areas so homeowners and businesses could get help for property.

"What we've seen today has been really, really hard -- folks who have lost every single thing they have," Perdue said. "This is big powerful stuff and these people are depending on North Carolina to help them stand up their lives again."

Perdue got a chance to speak to two officials from the Obama administration Tuesday. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack surveyed crop damage.

Hatteras Island, one of the jewels of the state's tourism industry, faced an uncertain amount of time cut off from its only road to the mainland. Ferries were taking vital supplies.

A ferry captain told ABC11 Tuesday that one of two 50-ton generators had been delivered to the island to help restore power. Some permanent residents who evacuated (green sticker) will now be allowed to return. A tractor trailer full of ice should arrive by Tuesday, Dare County spokeswoman Kathryn Bryan said.

Hatteras was cut off from the mainland when water rushing into the Pamlico Sound destroyed at least five portions of state Highway 12, the only road leading to the barrier island. Transportation officials have given no estimate on how long emergency repairs to the two-lane highway will take. But Perdue indicated it could be longer than the two months needed to rebuild the road in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel chewed a new channel into Hatteras Island.

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The problems "look to me to be larger than the last time," Perdue said.

The Dare County Sheriff's Office has established a curfew for local residents as well as for those trying to access Hatteras Island. A statement issued Monday night said the nightly curfew is in effect from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. until further notice. The curfew also applies to anyone attempting to gain access to Hatteras Island by any type of watercraft. Officials say Coast Guard boats will be patrolling the area.

While the rest of the tourism season on Hatteras Island appears shot, the rest of the state's beaches began a push to bring people back, as the holiday weekend loomed.

"This is a busy time of year for us. The Labor Day weekend is critical," said Celina Moose, manager of Kitty Hawk Kites, which sells kites and gives lessons in hang gliding, parasailing, surfing, and offers a host of other activities including kayak tours.

Currituck County reopened the Outer Banks areas of Corolla and Carova Beach to the general public Tuesday morning. Officials said a state of emergency has been lifted. NC 12 had been impassable past the Town of Duck.

At the other end of the Outer Banks, the owners of the Crab Shack in Salter Path were also trying to get their restaurant running again as quickly as they can. Brothers Eric and Craig Guthrie tore out the carpet Monday while they waited for an insurance adjuster to arrive. Like most of the worst-damaged places in North Carolina, water from the nearby sound came tearing in, leaving a least a foot of water behind. Oceanfront areas on the other side of the island were largely unscathed.

Saturday was the sixth time the restaurant had flooded since it was opened 35 years ago.

"There was Bertha, Fran, the two after," said Craig Guthrie, struggling to remember all the storms. "Then there was Ophelia. That one tore off the whole back dining room."

Perdue said preliminary estimates of damages to residents and businesses should be ready by the end of the week. The governor also said damage to tobacco, soybean and corn crops are of a magnitude that she hadn't seen before. Thirty-four counties already are getting federal help to pay for the immediate storm response.

Tree branches, parts of broken buildings and other debris started lining streets for pickup. Even inmates from state prisons were being called on to clean up at Atlantic Beach. Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs asked Perdue for extra assistance because he estimates debris cleanup alone will cost his city $2.5 million.

There still are plenty of people in North Carolina who have not yet made it back to see how Irene left their homes. Roughly 1,000 people remained in shelters Monday.

Gordon Riggins remained at the Raleigh Road Baptist Church in Wilson with about 40 other people. He remembered the devastation Hurricane Floyd brought to the area in 1999 and didn't hesitate to find more substantial shelter than his mobile home in Nash County.

His brother, who lives next door, stopped by after the storm to tell him their trailers survived, but they have no electricity and it could be two weeks before power is restored.

"I'm going to stay here as long as the shelter's open," Riggins said. "Once it closes, I'll have to go back there and fight the heat."

Across the eastern part of the state, people without power tried to make the best of their bad situations.

Kevin Minnifield was still at his charcoal grill outside his New Bern home Monday. He said his family emptied their freezers after the power went out Saturday in winds so strong it peeled his mother's roof right off her house. He was cooking chicken, potatoes and cabbage.

"I've got some stuff on ice," said Minnifield, who works for a cleaning service hired by a local retail store. "But we've got to keep cooking it, because it'll go bad."

There may be more damage to come from Irene's flooding rains. Officials are keeping an eye on inland flooding on the Tar River and the Northeast Cape Fear River at Burgaw.

Storm surge floods homes

Some of the worst flooding from Hurricane Irene happened in New Bern, where the storm pushed water from the Pamlico Sound up the Neuse River and into the city of about 30,000 people.

Associated Press photographer Chuck Burton visited Aurora in Beaufort County and found homes leveled by the waves pushed up the Pamlico River.

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Also in Craven County, officials estimated that swells from the Neuse River destroyed 20 to 25 houses further to the east in Harlowe. Volunteer Fire Chief Jeremy Brown said 10-foot swells from the river broke on top of houses. Some of the destroyed homes had been rebuilt after Isabel in 2003.

Sound flooding was also reported in Carteret, and Hyde counties.

Hundreds of viewers across the Triangle reported trees down around their homes and power outages.

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Evacuations and Re-entry

Perdue said the Governor's hurricane hotline is open for people who need help. Residents can call (888) 835-9966. The deaf and hard of hearing can call (877) 877-1765. More is also available at www.readync.org

Residents needing assistance can also call:

  • FEMA (800) 621-3362
  • Red Cross (800) 999-6828

Help is available in Dare County through Dare County Social Services and the American Red Cross. If you need this assistance call (252) 475-5655.

Before attempting re-entry to Dare County, or the Currituck Outer Banks, visit www.darenc.com or call (877) 629-4386 for updated information regarding when re-entry will be permitted. Once re-entry is allowed, you should also call your accommodations provider to confirm that lodging will be available.

Currituck County Government opened an emergency shelter Sunday for county residents displaced by Hurricane Irene. It's in the gymnasium at Currituck County High School, located at 4203 Caratoke Highway. Residents should bring necessary personal items to the shelter, including clothing, bedding and medicines. Pets will NOT be allowed in the shelter.

Residents can call (252) 232-6041 with questions regarding the shelter. For general storm-related information, citizens can call the Currituck Emergency Hotline at (252) 232-6010, visit www.CurrituckGovernment.com, www.VisitCurrituck.com, or follow CurrituckGov on Twitter.

Donate

Governor Perdue announced a North Carolina disaster relief fund Tuesday. Learn more at: www.ncdisasterrelief.org.

If you'd like to donate to the Red Cross for storm relief, you can do so at: www.american.redcross.org

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