Local News

Flooding, Erosion Continue As Dennis Batters Outer Banks

Posted August 31, 1999

— Tropical Storm Dennis continues to cause problems for many people along the North Carolina coast, and President Bill Clinton issued a declaration of emergency covering nine counties along the Outer Banks Wednesday.

That means the state will have some help in defraying the cost of the cleanup and recovery after Dennis is gone.

The nine counties eligible for emergency relief are Brunswick, Carteret, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender.

Tropical storm warnings remain in effect along the coast from Surf City up to the southern beaches of Virginia.

The storm has left thousands stranded without power, and many more worried about how much of the beach will be left when Dennis is done.

Oceanographers with theU.S. Army Corp of Engineerssurveyed the damage at Nags Head Wednesday. They hope by studying the destruction, they can help to prevent it.

Dennis will rank among the most powerful storms in terms of beach erosion. Because the winds slammed straight into the coast instead of at an angle, sand bars will build up in the surf, and recovery will be quicker.

"I've seen sound bars start to move in within hours after the storm," said Oceanographer Carl Miller.

Miller said the emergency work to clear Highway 12 on Hatteras Island is doomed to fail every time. Simply clearing the road does not solve the over wash problem.

"We've probably lost about 15 feet of dune," said Nags Head City Manager Webb Fuller. "That's probably a conservative estimate."

Fuller says it is difficult to estimate accurately at this point.

Most of Highway 12 from south Nags Head to Kitty Hawk is covered with sand and debris, and the evacuation of tourists has just about concluded, leaving the area looking like a ghost town.

Before they left, tourists at one Nags Head hotel heard the swimming pool there collapse.

"At about three this morning, I heard a big crash," said tourist Blake Arquette. "I thought it was the wind, but it was the swimming pool falling in."

A convoy of sixNational Guardvehicles reached the Hatteras Island village of Rodanthe early Wednesday.

The guardsmen brought food for the stranded people and fuel for the water plant.

All of Hatteras Village is currently without power, as are parts of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Frisco and Buxton. Electric co-ops have generators up and running at Ocracoke.

"There's no water and no power. We have to bring sea water in to flush the toilets. It is not a lot of fun," said Chris Larson.

Restoring power and water and getting roads back into shape are on the "to do" list of the Emergency Management Agency.

"Today was a bad day down there, and we didn't get a lot accomplished. Other equipment continues to come in, so at the first opportunity we can begin restoring access so we can evacuate the persons out of Hatteras that are still down there," said Eric Tolbert, Directory of Emergency Management.

Many residents are without phone service. Ham radio operators are their only source of information.

"When the power goes out, when the telephone goes, the cell phones go out, the ham radio always gets through," explained radio operator Dennis Evans.

Meanwhile, theNational Park Servicehas decided to cancel Saturday's lighting of theCape Hatteras Lighthouse.

A new date has not yet been set, but Bob Woody with the Park Service says it will not happen until Highway 12 is cleared, the villages on Hatteras Island recover and the people are ready to celebrate.

Wednesday on Hatteras Island, a pregnant woman made a quick exit. A Coast Guard helicopter took 18-year-old Amber Simerly, her mom and a local EMT to the hospital after she went into labor.

The baby girl and her mother are doing fine at Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City.

The Coast Guard also airlifted a dialysis patient out of Buxton Wednesday. ,Ericka LewisandKen Smith,Mark CopelandandRon Pittman


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