Business owners welcome return of visitors to Hatteras Island
Posted September 15, 2011
Irene washed out parts of N.C. Highway 12, the only road to the island, leaving residents dependent on the ferry system to reach their homes. While they cleaned up, authorities kept visitors off the island.
On Thursday, visitors lined up for ferry service to the island's southern villages of Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras. The rest of the island won't be open to visitors until sometime after Sept. 29.
Gary Cowen missed most of his pre-paid week of vacation, but said he was glad to be on the ferry Thursday morning.
"We try to get to the ocean once a year," he said. "I feel bad these guys have had to suffer. But I guess that's part of living on the island."
He said he's hoping to salvage the last three days of his trip but didn't know what to expect. "We've seen pictures of the devastation on Pea Island and Rodanthe, but we don't know how Avon is going to look," he said.
Beth Midgett said her company, Midgett Realty, would not reopen beach rentals until the weekend. She worried that the limited ferry service wouldn't be able to handle all the renters who want to return to the beach.
"It is the lifeblood of our economy," she said. And that blood is pumping again after a rough couple of weeks.
"At the beginning, we didn't have school. We didn't have anything," she said. "Every step we make back to normalcy makes you feel like things are getting right again."
In Hatteras village, outside Isabelle's Closet, a boutique named for the 2003 storm to hit the island, a sign welcomed the tourists' return. It read, "Happy to Sea You."
"I'm ready for them to be back," owner Sue Jones said. "It's a little boring without them."
At the Red and White store, manager Jennifer Burris was hoping to see more green. Her shop was stocked for Labor Day crowds before Irene prevented the influx.
"We had all our meats, all our frozen (foods), all our stock ready to go, and then suddenly there was an evacuation, and we were left with all this stock on the floor," Burris said.
Since the storm, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has increased ferry runs from Swan Quarter and Cedar Island to Ocracoke Island and from Ocracoke to Hatteras, but all ferries to Ocracoke and Hatteras are booked through the weekend.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation recommends anyone planning a visit to the Outer Banks make a ferry reservation.