Local News

State of Emergency Declared in NC as Bonnie Approaches

Posted August 24, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— More than a half million people have left the North Carolina beaches, and the National Guard is moving in. North Carolina is under a state of emergency, as the winds from Hurricane Bonnie are steadily picking up.

Gov. Jim Hunt has declared a state of emergency and a threatened state of disaster, and a hurricane warning is in effect for the North Carolina coast.

Mandatory hurricane evacuation orders are in effect for Dare County, Hyde County, New Hanover County, Brunswick County, Currituck County (Beach Areas, Outer Banks) and Carolina Beach. Voluntary Evacuations are in effect for Pender County, Carteret County and Onslow County. Also, the Highway Patrol is asking that if you live in manufactured housing east of I-95 in Johnston County, seek shelter tomorrow.

Residents along the North Carolina coast aren't sure what the next day may hold, but they are pretty sure it will not be positive.

Access to Wrightsville Beach has been cut-off, and anyone caught in the beach will be arrested. New Hanover County officials and emergency managers are taking the threat seriously.

"One of our major concerns may in fact be water, not wind. And because we could have some very high storm surge values, it may cause a substantial amount of problems," according to Dan Summers, county emergency manager. "But the track is so varied. The models are so varied. We need to make these preliminary steps at this time."

Included in the evacuation are Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Figure Eight Island, parts of Pleasure Island and Kure Beach. At Wrightsville Beach, a curfew takes effect at 11 p.m. At that time, all water and power will be turned off.

Residents and visitors to Ocracoke Island were packing ferries off the island Tuesday. Route 12 was also a main thoroughfare for reaching one of the only causeways to the mainland from Hatteras. Bumper to bumper traffic was backed up for several miles approaching the Baum Causeway. The mass exodus left the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse all alone to brave the anticipated attack of Hurricane Bonnie.

At Atlantic Beach, some people thing that this may be the worst storm in years for the area, and people are heeding the warning to pack up and get out. The bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway connecting Morehead City to Atlantic Beach is closed, but most people have already left. But Mike Addertion of Carteret County Emergency Management said they cannot force all the people to leave.

"We won't force anyone to leave. We will strongly suggest that they evacuate. There are certain areas of our county that are not safe during a hurricane. We'll try to outline those areas and strongly suggest to people that they leave," Addertion said.

At the Outer Banks, the scene was very much the same. An empty beach left a storm surge of traffic out of the outer banks community.

"When the town determines that you should get out of here, I think you should leave. To stay in a condition that could cost your life isn't worth it," Jeanettes's Pier manager Bill Hood said.

As tourists head inland, the familiar sound of power tools began to ring out as residents and store owners began boarding up windows.

"If you've got a home a home down here, if you have the money to have a home down here, then you have the money to board it up and protect it throughout these hurricanes," said contractor Wes Vaughn.

Business owner Elsie Williams said after the last nail was pounded, she would head just over the bridge to Manteo to ride out the storm. That may not seem far enough to many, but for Williams, it's as far as she ever goes.

As the waves pounded Jeanette's Pier, Hood had his own theory on the storm:

"I'm concerned it's going to come up the sound," Hood said. "It could jump Hatteras and come up the sound. If it comes up the sound, we'll get a water surge, the water will go to the west. When it goes through the eye, it will come back to the east, which will cause a lot of flooding and damage on the soundside."

As expected, grocery stores were especially busy. The top seller: bottled water. And as Bonnie creeps closer, Atlantic Beach will look more and more like a ghost town. But until she decides to show her face, locals remain optimistic and say they'll ride out the storm. ,Amanda Lamb,Len Besthoff,Mark Copeland,Kerrie Hudzinski,John Clark,Jason Darwin