Published: 2011-09-08 16:30:00
Updated: 2011-09-08 18:33:36
Posted September 8, 2011
Rodanthe, N.C. — 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, 66, 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.
"I jumped up and I said 'Roger, get up, wake up. The house is on fire.' He jumped up and put his clothes on as quick as a fireman," Meekins said. "We just ran out of the house, down three flights of steps, as quickly as we could run.".
Once outside, she said whipping winds and deep, rushing water made it difficult to stay upright. Meekins' husband, Roger, 81, said the only light available was what came from the flames destroying their beach house and the lanterns they grabbed.
"You're thinking survival at this time," he said. "You do what you need to do. You go where you need to go."
They waded through the sound surge, following the tide toward a neighbor's house.
"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.
After arriving at a neighbor's home, Celia and Roger and another couple left, fearing the same sort of fire that destroyed their beach house would happen again. 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.
Roger and Celia stayed with neighbors Sunday night and said they aren't sure yet if they will rebuild. The couple visited Raleigh Monday to get new glasses they lost in the storm and refill their prescription medications before heading back to their house in Manteo, which sustained limited damage during Hurricane Irene.
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.