Wanchese fisherman expects losses in Irene's wake

Posted August 30, 2011 10:19 p.m. EDT
Updated August 30, 2011 11:14 p.m. EDT

— For fishermen on the Outer Banks, the sea and sound are not just a vacation destination or a beautiful patio view, they are a way of life. In communities like Wanchese that rely on the commercial fishing industry, that way of life has been threatened by Hurricane Irene.

Larry Ballance, a lifelong Wanchese resident, works in construction and commercial fishing. He said he hasn't taken his boat out since Irene hit because he's afraid of hitting floating debris or the roots from swamp and marsh grasses. Both could cause expensive damage to his fishing boat.

"This will cease our fishing mostly in the sound until our waters can settle down and level off," Ballance said Tuesday.

He's also worried that the fish themselves were washed away in the storm. It could take two weeks before he's back on his boat, he said.

"You lose your job for two weeks, I mean, it's a big loss," he said. "To some, it can be devastating."

But he's not dwelling on the hardship, he said, and he's certainly got plenty of clean-up work to keep him busy on land.

"One day at a time. That's the way we live," Ballance said. "We deal with storms. We live near the Atlantic Ocean and it's a way of life."

While he's not on the water, Ballance and his wife, Carletta, are taking care of neighbors and helping out where they can.

"This whole Lane is family and what one person won't do, the other will do for you," Carletta Ballance said, referring to a road called The Lane that intersects N.C. Highway 345 in two places.

Nearby, Ken Davenport was cleaning up Tuesday from the muddy mess left behind when chest-deep water flooded his wife's childhood home. The mud, he said, is a mix of raw sewage and diesel fuel that left sediment throughout the house.

Davenport, who is a pastor in Zebulon, said the house has withstood storms since 1952, but Irene was different.

"This was a hundred year storm," he said. "We're happy to be alive (and) I'm glad my family was kept safe."