HATTERAS ISLAND, N.C. — An evacuation order is in place on the Outer Banks.
Ocracoke took a bigger hit from Hurricane Alex than it took from Isabel last year. After surveying the damage, local officials decided the fastest way to get things back to normal was to move tourists off the island.
Hyde County officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of all non-resident non-property owners on Ocracoke Island effective at 6 a.m. Thursday.
Utility restoration and cleanup crews moved onto Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands Wednesday as residents and business owners worked to return life to normal on the Outer Banks.
Officials said the decision to evacuate tourists from the island is for health and safety reasons, specifically because of septic tank failure, standing water, and damage repair to flooded homes.
A state of emergency remained in effect for Ocracoke Wednesday night. A generator was supplying power to parts of the Island on a rotating basis. Utility crews worked all day Wednesday to repair downed lines and will continue the power restoration process on Thursday.
Ferry service between Hatteras and Ocracoke is restricted to essential personnel and residents with a valid re-entry permit or a North Carolina driver's license with an Ocracoke address.
According to a public notice issued by Hyde County, all toll fees will be suspended on the ferries crossing the Pamlico Sound for visitors who are leaving the island. Access to the ferries will be on a first come, first serve basis, but schedules will be adjusted to meet traffic demands.
People on Ocracoke with flood damage to vehicles should call
or go to the Ocracoke School for information and assistance in arranging transportation.
Buses will be available for transportation to car rental agencies. Insurance companies should be contacted to arrange retrieval of flooded vehicles.
Some people believe an evacuation order should have been given in the first place.
"It's just not safe over here," Ocracoke restaurant owner Scott McNally said. "There are power lines down. There are trees down. There is water in the road. We are all trying to get our lives back to normal and now, we are fighting with everyone else with power."
The call for an evacuation was made by local officials, not state officials. In hindsight, the county manager for Hyde County said, an evacuation order should have been given before the storm.
Gov. Easley headed down east to take a tour of the damaged areas. He looked at the damage from the air and met with officials in Hatteras and Ocracoke to talk about what it will take to get the Outer Banks back to normal.
Emergency Management officials said there is no restricted entry into any areas of the county; however, all motorists -- especially those in small vehicles -- are strongly encouraged to proceed with caution.
Pockets of standing water are present on Highway 12 and many secondary roads on Hatteras Island.
between Hatteras and Ocracoke is restricted to essential personnel and residents with a valid re-entry permit or a North Carolina driver's license with an Ocracoke address.
On Ocracoke, power is being alternated in two-hour intervals to each side of the island.
Damage assessment teams began working on Hatteras Island around 7 a.m. Wednesday and worked throughout the day. Officials hope to have power fully restored to Hatteras Island by Thursday.
On Harker's Island, the Cape Lookout National Seashore mainland and visitor center are open, but the remainder of the park is closed until damage assessments are complete.
"The Outer Banks portions of the park will be opened as soon as possible," park superintendent Bob Vogel said.
No significant damage was reported on the island.
A census of wild horses on Shackleford Banks is in progress. No turtle nests were lost on South Core or Shackleford Banks; however, three-quarters of the nests were flooded.
The stronger-than-expected storm, with maximum winds reaching 100 miles per hour, brushed the Outer Banks Tuesday before it went out to sea.
The storm brought flooding from the Pamlico Sound onto N.C. Highway 12 -- the road that links the Outer Banks to the mainland. Trash and other debris also were strewn along the road.
The storm's eye barely passed by Cape Hatteras, leaving the strongest winds and heaviest rain out to sea.
Ocracoke Island was under a state of emergency overnight Tuesday.
Sheriff Lynden Johnson said the island was plagued by flooding, which caused floating propane gas tanks and many vehicles to catch fire. About 22 light poles on the island were down Tuesday night. No injuries have been reported.
WRAL.com Hurricane Section