Rodanthe rebuilds, rebounds after Irene
Posted May 1, 2014
Rodanthe, N.C. — The Cape Hatteras KOA (Kampgrounds of America) campground invites tourists back to the island this week, almost three years after Hurricane Irene tore the area apart.
Since that windy, wet day in 2011, Eric Kelch has been tasked with rebuilding the campground.
"It looked like a battle zone," he said. "The buildings had a lot of damage, there was a lot of debris deposited here."
After a $6 million restoration and upgrade effort, the Cape Hatteras KOA is just the second in the nation to be branded a "resort." It features luxury suites and sound-side views, deluxe accommodations and a cluster of pet-friendly cabins complete with individual kennels.
"It's just finishing touches over the last year," Kelch said.
A few mileposts away, at the Waves Market, they're expanding in anticipation of bigger crowds. The store has doubled in size in the last two years.
Waves manager Todd Hunt has also been able to rebuild the home he lost to Irene.
"It's been long, about two-and-a-half years for me since the storm, just doing one nail at a time, one board at a time," Hunt said.
Rodanthe saw some of the worst of that hurricane, but the aftermath has served as a rebirth for the small community.
"It's an awesome town," Hunt said. "Everyone helps each other out, comes together."
Kelch said he noticed the same.
"It's quite the community and quite the build-back," he said.
The new KOA building stands higher above ground than codes call for. The wall will absorb the brunt of water rushing from the sound. In all, the campground has come back tougher and stronger, just like the people who live in Rodanthe.
"We'll make it through the next Irene," Kelch said.
The Cape Hatteras KOA reopens to the public with tours of the new facility throughout the weekend.