Published: 2020-08-04 02:38:00
Updated: 2020-08-05 11:16:07
By Kathryn Brown, WRAL anchor/reporter, & Matthew Burns, WRAL.com senior producer/politics editor
Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. — Late Tuesday night, some property owners and residents were allowed back on Ocean Isle Beach to survey damage to their homes.
One family told WRAL News they needed to get back to their dog, who was left outside and needed water and air conditioning. The dog was reunited with its family Wednesday morning.
Before residents were allowed back on Ocean Isle Beach, town officials used Facebook Live to tour the extensive damage and show property owners their damaged homes
Officials said Wednesday at least 10 public beach access are significantly damaged. The beach is still closed to the public, and a curfew is in place indefinitely.
The eye of Hurricane Isaias came ashore at Ocean Isle Beach around 11 p.m. Monday, sparking a series of fires at homes and causing a lot of flooding.
Mayor Debbie Smith said nine homes were destroyed by fires, including two owned by full-time residents. But no one was hurt in the fires.
Brook Hudson, who was visiting Ocean Isle Beach, said she decided to stay in the community through the storm, taking her cue from residents, many of whom didn't evacuate.
As the hurricane eyewall slammed into the island, debris flew in every direction, water poured in, walls collapsed and cars began to float off.
"We had five cars parked under the house. The storm surge came in and was like playing bobbers with our cars," Hudson said. "They were bumper cars all up under the house. The house was shaking really bad."
When a nearby house caught fire, she and her 2-year-old son, Dash, made a dash to safety.
"We look out the window, and the house right behind us is on fire," she said. "At that time, we booked it, went down the road a little bit to a neighbor's house and watched the whole thing."
The cause of the fires hasn't been determined.
Law enforcement blocked access to the island much of Tuesday to give authorities a chance to assess damage and get power restored, Smith said.
Property owners started returning to the island Tuesday evening, and Smith said contractors would be allowed in on Wednesday to start clearing debris and making repairs. Visitors and vacationers can "hopefully" return in a few days, she said.
"It is our goal to allow everybody to come back and visit Ocean Isle and enjoy this beautiful beach as soon as possible," she said.
Hudson’s mother drove four hours from Pilot Mountain but was stopped short of seeing her daughter and grandson because of the restricted access.
"Just for that one second [an officer] told me I couldn’t get them, I felt very frustrated," Angela Hudson said. "We were up all night pretty much just waiting to hear news. We just got here and told them we needed to get to our family, and I said, 'How do we get to our family?' and they said, 'You don’t.'"
"I just … want to get out of here," an exhausted Brook Hudson said.
Resident Patti Talley said she was "kind of sick" while waiting to get back onto the island, not knowing how bad the damage was.
"Based on [Hurricane] Matthew, which was the worst we've gone through since we've owned down here, it sounds like, flooding wise, it was worse than Matthew," Talley said.
WRAL Weather Watcher Ethan Clark said he talked with homeowners who had up to 4 feet of water around their homes.
Clark, who went to Ocean Isle Beach just to have the experience of seeing the eye of a hurricane, estimated that about 80 percent of the island experienced storm surge flooding from Isaias. Many of the canals on the island were flooded, he said.
"Certain parts of the island looked like a war zone," he said.
Damage is "hit or miss," Clark said. "Conditions go downhill very quickly" toward the east end of the island, with many roads washed out and beach dunes breached.
Vic Medlin of the Four Oaks Volunteer Fire Department, which assisted in the response to the overnight fires on the island and efforts to restore power, called the area peaceful in the storm's aftermath.
"There's a lot of sand, it looks like where the water came in," Medlin said. "It looks fairly peaceful. There's not a whole lot of people over there right now."