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Coastal Cleanup Continues; Warnings Out for Seafood, Swimmers

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OAK ISLAND — For the most part, the North Carolina coast avoided a big blow from Hurricane Floyd. However, the hurricane's effects are still being felt by permanent residents and tourists.

On Oak Island, the beaches are still closed and so are many of the roads. The head of Brunswick County Emergency Management says Floyd hit this area harder than hurricanes Fran, Bonnie and Bertha combined.

Ten Oak Island homes were destroyed along the beach alone. Roofs were ripped off many homes, while other homes were ripped off their foundations. The storm surge was between eight and 12 feet and did most of the damage.

Across eastern North Carolina, flooding is a problem inside homes. Along the coast, the water is underneath homes.

Two weeks after the hurricane, work is still being done to clear sand from roads. Restoring damage on the beach will take much longer.

Joe Cantrell lost the floor of his garage. When he looks around him, he feels lucky. But not even the damage he sees from his home will make him move away.

"It's exciting. It's high risk, but we accept that. We took the chance," he says.

You could be taking a chance with your health by eating some seafood caught along the North Carolina coast. The usually blue ocean now has a brown tint thanks to Hurricane Floyd.

Longtime fisherman Vander Carroll says he can see a difference in the color of the water in fish he caught before and after the hurricane. He says there is something else he noticed.

"A terrible odor like I've never smelled fishing," says Carroll.

If you have any doubts about seafood, do not eat it. That is the advice about fish. TheState Division of Environmental Healthsays shrimp is safe to eat, but you should not eat any raw oysters or clams from central and southern North Carolina waters.

They say the hurricane-polluted Cape Fear is pouring into the Atlantic.

"The flood waters covered up and caused spills of sewage treatment plants and animal waste lagoons, tanks of chemicals and everything in your shed out back, and that is potentially contaminating the water," says Johanna Reese of the Division of Environmental Health.

The extent of the damage to the water is still being studied and only Mother Nature can fix it.

For now, there are also warnings for people to stay out of the water if they have any open sores. Swimmers should not go under water for fear of ingesting the contaminated water.

The polluted waters will have longer effects on area restaurants. Places which normally serve locally-harvested oysters and clams are now buying them from other states.

If you still want to eat oysters and clams, you should boil them thoroughly, but there is no guarantee that they will be safe.

Health officials say shellfish caught along the Outer Banks is safe to eat because it is far enough away from the mainland.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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