Bald Head Island escaped severe damage from hurricane, tornado

Posted August 5, 2020 6:15 p.m. EDT

— The remote nature of Bald Head Island – accessible only by boat – is part of its appeal for residents and visitors alike. But it also makes island life more precarious, especially after a storm like Hurricane Isaias.

As the Category 1 hurricane roared ashore about 25 miles to the west at Ocean Isle Beach late Monday, it spun out a tornado that cut across part of Bald Head Island.

"The winds really picked up, and we were getting some texts that tornadoes were touching down. We heard the freight train sound," said resident Jarrett Michau, who rode out the storm in the basement with his brother, Court Michau, and their families.

"I can’t imagine, if that was a [Category] 1, what a 3 or 4 would be like," Court Michau said. "I mean, that was a very intense storm."

The families weren't harmed in the storm, although the house took a beating.

"We lost some shingles on the roof, top of the roof, our deck flew out, we had some side-boarding come off, but nothing major," Jarrett Michau said. "[There was a] little water. We took some water."

Bald Head Island is home to just 200 year-round residents, but the number of inhabitants swells to 10,000 in the summer months. Most people had evacuated the island as Isaias approached, however.

"They’re lucky. That can’t be anything other than a tornado," Dale Giera, a contractor who splits his time between Chapel Hill and Bald Head Island, said as he surveyed the damage on Wednesday.

Roads in the Middle Island area of the island were impassable Tuesday because of downed trees, but they were cleared by Wednesday.

Giera said he was surprised there wasn't more damage.

Hurricane Florence shut Bald Head Island down for weeks two years ago. Despite all of the downed trees, Isaias wasn't nearly as destructive.

"After Florence, we’re very vulnerable," Giera said. "People understand this is the price you have to pay."

The ferry to the island from Southport is operating, but access to the island is currently limited to homeowners and renters to allow property owners and local officials to assess the damage.

"We feel pretty lucky. We probably should have left," Jarrett Michau said.

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