Hatteras Island rebounds after Hurricane Irene

Posted October 28, 2011

— Wind and waves and buildings being torn apart – those are just some of the sounds coastal residents heard as Hurricane Irene ripped apart their lives. Now, two months after the storm, there is a different sound – cash registers ringing and construction equipment buzzing, signaling a Hatteras Island rebound.

N.C. Highway 12, which sustained severe damage, has been stitched back together by a handful of engineers, riggers and laborers. A two-lane, 650-foot temporary bridge has pumped life back into the communities.

“Since the bridge has opened back up, there’s been a lot more business,” said Nathan Stancio, with Waves Market.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation reopened Highway 12 on Oct. 10. A temporary bridge links the Outer Banks and it is expected to be in place for two years. The DOT is still working to find a permanent solution to the Highway 12 issue.

In August, Hurricane Irene washed out two areas of Highway 12, including a section more than 200 feet long in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, south of Nags Head, when the Category 1 storm touched down on the coast.

For now, commerce is creeping back to the island. With the road now passable, tourists can get back to spending money.

“There’s going to be money coming through the businesses (and) restaurants. Just everything on the whole is going to be better,” Stancio said.

hatteras island Hatteras Island rebounding from Irene

For Hatteras Island resident Kimmie Robertson, returning to normal means replacing the roadside garbage with roadside gardens.

“It was a lot more water than I ever expected,” she said. “I was very nervous about how fast the water was coming up. Probably the biggest shock was coming out and seeing the devastation and not thinking it would ever be like that.”

Robertson says she is really impressed with how the community has come together to help one another. At Totally Free Market, there are no cash registers ringing. Everything there has been donated and given away free to Hatteras Island residents – no questions asked and no qualifications.

“We’re just filling the need that wasn’t going to get filled,” said Janet Bigney, with Totally Free Market. “’Thank you so much, thank you.’ We hear it all the time.”

Waves residents still cleaning up from Irene Waves residents still cleaning up from Irene

The effects of Irene are also still being felt further south on N.C. Highway 12 in the town of Waves. 

The storm flooded Terry Lorenzo's trailer, leaving mud in her refrigerator and damaging photos. 

"I don't know who to be mad at, that's the problem. Mad at myself for not putting the pictures up higher," she said. 

Lorenzo's trailer sank in flood water. She is still homeless, but not humorless.

"I've cured my shopping habit, after having to wheel-barrel all my purses and shoes into the dumpster," she said. 

Lorenzo said the communities of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo will come back because it is about the people and not the property. 

"The people are strong here. We're our own little world here. We're our own little people. We've been sticking together," she said. 

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  • obxdreamin Oct 28, 2011

    Going Monday for the week and can not wait! Such a beautiful and peaceful place.