The Cleanup Begins
Posted July 13, 1996
RALEIGH — July 14, 1996, 2:40 p.m. EDT
Surf City has reopened to residents. Topsail Beach residents have been allowed back in, but it may be 48 hours before vacationers are allowed to return.
These two coastal towns were among the hardest hit by Hurricane Bertha on Friday. But cleanup and damage assessment are under way across a wide swath of North Carolina. Although the coast took the most severe pounding, damage from high winds and rain extended as far inland as Wake, Durham and Johnston Counties.
An official tally of the damage is not expected before Tuesday, but some counties have come up with preliminary numbers. New Hanover County puts the price tag at $18 million, and Lenoir County believes the figure will be at least $3.6 million -- and that's just for homes and businesses, not for crop damage. Some farmers are reporting 90 percent loss of their crops.
Boating also was disrupted. Sunday, the Cape Fear River was open to both inbound and outbound traffic, but only during daylight. The Intracoastal Waterway is open south of mile marker 200. Beaufort Inlet is closed due to shoaling with in the inlet. Other coastal inlets are also closed.
At the height of Friday's storm, power was out across wide areas. By Sunday, only 25,000 homes were without electricity, 18,000 of them in the Wilmington area. Scattered outages are reported for Jacksonville, Kinston, Goldsboro and Morehead City. Power crews hope to have electricity restored to 95 percent of customers by midnight.
Approximately 250,000 people were evacuated before Bertha's unwelcome arrival. Many of the vacationers have moved on to other sites, but the property owners are anxious to return to survey the damage for themselves. Where damage was relatively slight, local officials have allowed property owners to get to the beaches. Where power lines were down, or where massed sand or downed trees made travel impossible, people were barred. Some coastal areas have been without both power and water.
In those areas of high damage that are allowing only property owners access, people must provide proof of residence or ownership. Vacationers and the general public are not allowed access to some areas.
Brunswick County: Sunset, Ocean Isle, Holden, Long, Yaupon and Caswell Beachs and Bald Head Island are open.
New Hanover County: Fort Fisher, Kure, Carolina and Wrightsville Beaches are all open.
Pender County: Topsail and Del Mar Beaches are open. Surf City is now open to residents. Residents and property owners will be required to present proof of their status before they can return to homes and businesses. Those living north of the Surf Condominiums on North Shore Drive will need an escort because of the sand on the road. Once residents return, they will be allowed to remain. Until now, resident of many heavily damaged areas have been allowed to check their property but have been forced to leave again at nightfall. One challenge facing Surf City and many other coastal spots is where to dispose of the great quantities of debris.
The main problem in Topsail Beach continues to be restoring power and removing debris from roadways. The town's main street, Ocean Boulevard, has had one million cubic yards of sand deposited along a one-mile stretch of road. Town manager Eric Peterson estimates property losses at two million dollars, and says the loss from vacant rental properties is about $90,000 per day while visitors are kept off the island.
Onslow County: West Onslow Beach is closed to everyone. North Topsail is closed.
Carteret County: Salter Path is closed. Bogue Banks, Emerald Isle, Indian Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Atlantic Beach, Morehead City and Beaufort are all open. Emerald Isle will require re-entry passes of residents.
Hyde County: Ocracoke is open now to everyone. Access is by the Swan Quarter/Cedar Island Ferry. Priority is being given on the Cedar Island, Buxton and Ocracoke ferries to residents with identification stickers.
Dare County: Buxton, Rodanthe, Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills are all open.
As people return to homes that had been without electricity, the North Carolina State Emergency Response Team issued a warning about handling food. Hurricane victims are advised not to open freezers until they intend to use or discard the contents. Most freezers will keep food safe for 36 hours if left closed. After a freezer is opened, NCSERT says, and if temperature of food is above 45 degrees, the food should be used immediately or be discarded. No thawed foods should be refrozen.
NCSERT also says the preferred method for discarding foods that have been spoiled or damaged is burial at least 48 inches deep. If burial is not possible, NCSERT advises residents to put the food in a sealed plastic bag or container, and deposit it in a landfill.
Anyone with questions about the perishability of food in the wake of Hurricane Bertha is advised to call the local health department