NC coast prepares for Isaias while recovering from pandemic shutdowns, Hurricane Florence

Posted August 1, 2020 7:32 p.m. EDT
Updated August 2, 2020 11:55 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina coastal communities are watching the storm very carefully, especially because so many of them had serious damage nearly two years ago from Hurricane Florence.

People were seen setting up beach chairs and preparing for the sunny skies before the storm on Sunday.

Joy Arnette, from Wilmington, said and her neighbors experienced major flooding in their yards, homes and streets during Florence.

"During Florence, we had water all the way up to our walkway," Arnette said. "We did sandbag. We've been through a bunch of storms, but none had that much rain."

As hurricane season kicks off and with Isaias not far from North Carolina, Arnette said she's not taking anything for granted.

"So you can never really count it out just because of the strength, the possibility of damage there can be," Arnette said. "I never make it any less serious."

At this point, there are no shelters planned for the Wrightsville Beach area. The requirements surrounding COVID-19 make congregate sheltering tricky. New Hanover has partially activated its Emergency Management staff and will work with the state to direct people to inland shelters, if necessary.

Future construction site of Kure Beach lighthouse faces strong winds

Levi Hemingway, builder with Elm builders, is helping secure the site of the future Kure Beach lighthouse.

Right now, the site is still under construction.

He said shutters he ordered to keep the building safe didn't arrive on time. Tropical Storm Isaias' winds are going to be a test to see if the hurricane-proof windows he installed truly work.

"They are supposed to be able withstand 150 to 170 mile per hour winds," Hemmingway said.

"This is the real test to see how much they can withstand without the real hardware on them," he said. "We are just keeping our fingers crossed."

The site hopes to open this fall.

Businesses still rocky from Hurricane Florence, coronavirus shutdown

It took months for many coastal business to rebuild and reopen after Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Now, many of those same businesses are struggling to stay open amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It's clear nobody wants a storm, not only because it causes damage but it chases away visitors — not for just one day but for several days and even weeks. With the coronavirus pandemic already impacting the economy, it's something business owners say they can't handle.

"At 50 percent capacity, we are barely breaking even, and the hardest part about this is the summer months are when we need to make a lot more to get us through the winter months," said Elaine Andrews, who owns South Beach Grill in Wrightsville Beach.

Tourism and outdoor sports companies have weathered the pandemic by offering socially distant summertime activities like paddle boarding and kayaking. In fact, a lot of people were out on the water today, taking advantage of the calm before the storm on Sunday afternoon.

Jarrod Covington, owner of Wrightsville SUP, said, "We're not concerned about it. We're prepared. It's something you deal with when you live on the coast."

He said they plan to be open again by Wednesday.

Home business has boomed in Wrightsville Beach during the pandemic. Builder Dave Spetrino said it's critical to keep their projects safe during storms.

"At any given day, there's probably 20 to 30 houses that are at some risk of hazard," said Spetrino, owner of PBC Design Build. "If we're in the seven-day cone, this is what you can do, if you're in the five-day cone, this is what you can do."

Spetrino said he's created a checklist to help prepare.

"By the time we're in a three-day cone, all work is done, start battening down the hatches," Spetrino said.

Spetrino said all his properties weathered Hurricane Florence well.

Beverly Lam, general manager of Jack Mackerel's, said she is not that worried about the storm.

"It's going to be the first normal thing that has happened this year," Lam said.

The truth is it's always the most beautiful right before and right after a storm. So many local companies hope they will just be down for only a few days – and have people enjoying the beaches again by the middle of the week.

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