I am amazed at how quickly Dare and Currituck County emergency services got things up and running after Irene. Two days after the event, the northern Outer Banks (unfortunately that does not include Hatteras Island) was open and ready for business again. All that being said . . .
Now the cleanup begins. Which might be the most miserable part of a hurricane–especially this one. There was a lot of wind, a lot of rain, but the worst part of Irene was the flooding. It was not the ocean that poured over the dune line this time, it was the sounds rising to levels even people who have lived here all their lives had never seen.
My neighbor and I gave the high water mark on our homes a quick eyeball, estimated the distance from the floor of the house and figured the storm surge was about 6, which puts it right at the prediction from the National Hurricane Center.
I’m one of the lucky ones, as is my neighbor. Our houses were elevated just enough to keep us dry, but so many people along the sounds and creeks (well, ditches really–but we call them creeks) had water two, three and four feet into their homes. There are piles of soggy, ruined furniture, bedding, sofas everywhere along the road on the soundside of the Bypass. And everyone of those homes will not be habitable until everything is scrubbed down, dried out and new drywall put in.
People coming down for a visit or vacation probably wont see a lot of the cleanup. Because ocean overwash was minimal, there is very little evidence of Irenes passing on the ocean side.
That, frankly, is probably a good thing. People come to the Outer Banks to relax, and it is probably not the most relaxing thing to drive past endless piles of ruined bedding and chunks of wet drywall. As frustrating as it may be to spend a day or three cleaning up the mess in the front and back yards, it would be even worse to be cleaning up everything and not even know if you still had a job.
Ultimately, this will be little more than a transitory blip on the radar screen. We are experienced at this type of cleanup, so sometime in the next two to three days, dump trucks will be out in force, picking up the piles of fallen branches, toppled trees and ruined furniture by the side of the road. Contractors, friends, neighbors will roll their sleeves up and rebuild damaged homes and property. In a matter of weeks, there will be almost no evidence of Irenes passing left on the northern Outer Banks.
I wish we could say the same for Hatteras Island, where Highway 12 has been severed in multiple places extending from the north end of Rodanthe well into Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. But that’s a story for another day.