Spring Hope, N.C. — A Nash County man stranded on the coast for several days when Hurricane Sandy cut off his only escape route said Wednesday that preparation helped him and other fishermen survive the storm.
Dennis Joyner was part of a group of more than two dozen friends who went to Portsmouth Island last Wednesday for their annual fishing trip. They planned to stay until Saturday, but Cape Lookout National Seashore park rangers told them Thursday that they needed to leave because Sandy was approaching.
"We were trying to make reservations to get back to that ferry ahead of time," he said. "Unfortunately, so was everybody else."
The uninhabited island, which is south of Ocracoke Island, is accessible only by a private ferry, and Joyner said there wasn't enough time to evacuate the entire group because the ferry stopped running Friday as the waters of Pamlico Sound became more choppy.
"We chose to put the people on the ferry who really needed to get off, who wouldn't be able to wade through the storm," Joyner said. "It was a matter of doing the right thing."
One member of the group was diabetic, he said, and a few older members "were in panic mode to the point they were shaking."
On Saturday, as Sandy began slamming the North Carolina coast with gusty winds and high waves, the 20 or so people who remained on the island awoke to a rush of sea water. Joyner said his friend's truck was already buried in sand and water outside their cabins.
"The wind constantly blew. It never died down for the entire period we were down there," he said.
Many vehicles on the island were destroyed, and the power to most of the cabins was shut off. But the group had packed plenty of food – Joyner called tins of beanie-weenies and bags of chips essentials for such trips – and they were able to hunker down and hold on until the private ferry was able to return them safely to the mainland Tuesday morning.
Joyner said he never felt that his life was in danger, but it was difficult to keep calm at times.
"You do count your blessings. You really do," he said, adding that the group will probably return to the coast next year.
"We all were saying we won't go back, but time heals wounds, so we will," he said. "People need to get away."