Hurricanes

Couple swims to safety to escape Rodanthe house fire

Posted August 28, 2011
Updated September 8, 2011

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— In the midst of driving rain and pounding wind at the height of Hurricane Irene on the Outer Banks, a Rodanthe couple watched helplessly as their dream home went up in flames. Fire crews couldn't get to the blaze because of severe flooding, and Celia Meekins said she and her husband had to slosh through neck-deep water to get to safety.

Meekins said she and her husband stayed in their 6,000-square foot home to ride out Irene, but around 8:30 p.m. Saturday, she saw flames encircling the home.

"We just ran out of the house, down three flights of steps, as quickly as we could run," Meekins said.

Once outside, she said whipping winds and deep, rushing water made it difficult to stay upright.

"The wind was blowing so hard and we were kind of holding on to each other. I held on to my husband's hand so I wouldn't go under, but (with) the wind, my feet weren't touching the pavement, I can tell you that," she said.

Suddenly, in the darkness, she felt the hands of her neighbors, who had braved the storm to bring the couple life jackets.

"We had friends staying next door that saved our lives," she said.

Rodanthe house fire Woman tells story of watery escape from Rodanthe fire

They swam to a neighboring development, frightened, but trying to stay calm, Meekins said.

"I was praying. I said, 'Oh God, please spare our lives, please spare our lives,' and about that time, we saw a light," she said.

People inside a home had spotted them and waved flashlights and white shirts to signal they were welcome to take shelter there.

They were staying with neighbors Sunday night.

Firefighters, who couldn't get to the scene until Sunday afternoon, believe the hurricane force winds thrashed electrical wires, sparking the blaze.

They won't be able to confirm the cause of the fire for at least a week, said Dare County Fire Marshall Doug Remaley.

Fire also destroyed a home in New Bern, in Craven County, on the edge of the Neuse River.

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  • cdettbarn Aug 31, 2011

    We recently stayed in this home for my sister's wedding - we were in awe of it's beauty and uniqueness. My husband and I would like to extend our condolences to the couple who lost this wonderful home. We thank God that they were able to escape to a neighbor's house safely. We wish you the best as you figure out the next step - whether to rebuild or not. If you do rebuild, we hope you use this lost house as an inspiration. God Bless.

  • driverkid3 Aug 30, 2011

    If anyone, rich or poor builds or puts a camper or anything else down there they need to have money to replace it out of their own pockets. Don't make everyone else pay for it. And I am NOT one that hates "the rich".

  • soyousay Aug 29, 2011

    Where do you think all of the employees of all the businesses live..

    obviouly in homes...but this is not about them...it is about the 6000 quare foot mushrooms that have broken through the dunes in their own little march to the sea.

  • btneast Aug 29, 2011

    having driven through Rodanthe and it's massive mini-hotel houses that beg to be slapped into the water by hurricanes, it didn't strike me as a place that an "average" person could afford.

    ...well, I've done more than just "drive though" all of those towns. You ever turn down any of the side streets on your ONE pass through? Where do you think all of the employees of all the businesses live? Go down to Avon , Buxton and Frisco and cruise those backroads, then get back to me. You obviously have no clue.

  • corey3rd Aug 29, 2011

    having driven through Rodanthe and it's massive mini-hotel houses that beg to be slapped into the water by hurricanes, it didn't strike me as a place that an "average" person could afford.

    I guess where btnest comes from - average people live in 6,000 sq ft homes.

  • btneast Aug 29, 2011

    But now the Millionaires of the Outer Banks expect the state to spend hundreds of millions to "patch" three inlets so they can enjoy their paradise

    Dude, get a life and quit the envy. For every "millionaire" on the island, there are a hundred "average" folks just tryting to make a living. Coastal areas are not chock full of millionaires eating caviar......the overwhelming majority are natives of those areas that have lived all of their lives there, as have their ancestors. They eake out a living, mostly on tourism, and now that is likely gone.

  • corey3rd Aug 29, 2011

    I don't live on a sand bar and expect the state to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to allow me to enjoy my $2 million view of the Sound.

    These people expect the government to build them another road, but when 2,500 of them were told to drive to the mainland, they didn't want to listen to the government. You know what you do to a child that displays that attitude? Now they're all upset at being stuck in their paradise without electricity. They made their choice - give them some time to live with it..

    maybe not all of them are millionaires judging from all the foreclosed beach property being short sold.

  • G-man Aug 29, 2011

    But now the Millionaires of the Outer Banks expect the state to spend hundreds of millions to "patch" three inlets so they can enjoy their paradise. And they expect that to be done to them every time a hurricane comes through their paradise.
    corey3rd

    They keep it open to your pathetic place don't they?

  • BubbaDuke Aug 29, 2011

    That couple worked hard to build that home. It's nobody's business how much they have - they lost a home. The difference between them and the majority of us isn't that they are that much smarter, but that they made decisions that provided the lifestyle they have. Instead of despising people for succeeding, we ought to be encouraged that it can still be done in America.

    As far as people living at the beach - it's a huge source of revenue for North Carolina. If we didn't have the draw of our beaches and mountains, our taxes would be even higher than they already are. How much more are you willing to pay to enjoy this cesspool in between where most of us mediocre citizens live?

  • redbud9 Aug 29, 2011

    This must have been terrifying for them. (but what is the purpose of telling us how big their house is? - does it matter??)

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