Hello dear readers, we have some sad news to report but at the same time, we are happy to learn this sad situation is slowly on the mend.
Just two weeks after we were in one of our favorite spots for an annual beach vacation, the eye of Hurricane Dorian passed directly over Hatteras, North Carolina and made landfall as a Category 1 on September 6 (four days after Labor Day). Dorian devastated that coastline and left Ocracoke Island hit even harder with sustained winds of 77 mph and gusts up to 85 mph and a storm surge of 7 – 8 feet. This force along with severe flooding left 80% of properties flooded and residents without power or clean water for days. The island’s main generators shut down with this damage and streets were underwater and impassable except maybe by boat. Many of the island’s shops and establishments, particularly those along Silver Lake were destroyed. Many do not expect to reopen any time soon. (We were possibly planning to go back in October.) It was only one week ago, at the time of this writing, that residents who left and workers were allowed to re-enter. This was enough time for mold and mildew to wreak havoc with any salvaged property.
There are about 1,000 permanent residents on Ocracoke. About 800 stayed to manage their properties and livelihood, knowing it would take too long for authorities to let them return if they evacuated. After having family survive Hurricane Katrina, I know this all too well. Dorian was just one of many hurricanes that generations of Ocracokers have witnessed but perhaps none with this much damage seen in recent history.
This News Observer article gives a harrowing account of what residents and Ocracoke Island have endured.
This wonderful video posted through The News & Observer shows the devastation that brings tears to your eyes, if you know Ocracoke, but also shows the uplifting reaction that came as a response from those wanting to help.
The damage is so severe that the island doesn’t expect to reopen to those beyond essential personnel, workers and residents until November, and that’s an early estimate. This island relies on tourism.
The gorgeous nine + miles of continuous, pristine beaches off the 12 mile stretch of Highway 12 from the north point Hatteras Ferry landing were decimated. The dunes are gone and the highway buckled and washed out (via The News & Observer).
What was once a glorious, serene coastline with crisp, sandy-white beaches and hardly any other people as far as the eye could see within this National Wildlife Preserve is gone.
Along with it are the many turtle eggs that were due to hatch this season. We even saved one caught in the surf while there. Other wildlife, like the popular wild ponies survived on the island.
However, 28 horses died in the storm surge on neighboring Cedar Island, which ironically was thought to be safe. They were all named after residents and described in detail on Bonnie Gruenberg’s blog, Wild Horse Islands.
This area of the Outer Banks is rich with history. We visited Portsmouth Island, where the earliest settlers resided and were instrumental in saving sailors during shipwrecks. Their graves were destroyed with Dorian.
While on vacation, we took our photo shoots of some of our many Sea Life Treasures Collection items from our Casart Décor Shop. We are at least happy to have some of these beach ones to remember, knowing it will be a long time before Ocracoke can fully rebuild and recover what was lost.
We also have a long history in loving Ocracoke. It’s where many of the sea shells were gathered and drawn for our Shells design in the Sea Life Collection. We’ve also used images from Ocracoke in our blog posts before.
We are heartbroken over this sad situation, having celebrated life within this community over the last eight years and with our other traveling friends, who have been coming here much longer — and many more who have a connections here since childhood. We know, however, what a strong group Ocracokers are and how they band together to help one another. It’s just that so much is needed to be done in the wake of this disaster.
Resident, Kelley Shinn’s Opinion piece in the New York Times this past Sunday, From a Proud Island: ‘We Need Your Help,‘ will hopefully bring attention to this disaster. Although the NC’s Governor Roy Cooper, Congressman Greg Murphy and State Senator Bob Steinburg have all taken the appropriate steps to get FEMA funding for Ocracoke, the formal declaration of disaster document is held up in bureaucracy waiting to to be signed. Frustrating when help is needed now! However, Ms Shinn, like most residents there, approaches what they cannot control with uplifting humor that would leave most anyone wobbly in the wake of losing one’s leg — literally. She uses a sleeve to swim with her prosthetic leg but she lent her sleeve to another resident who had lost theirs. When she takes the chance to swim without it, a rogue wave knocks her over and washes her leg a way. Fortunately, after putting out a social media alert to help look for it, the leg washed up the next day and was recovered by her favorite bartender. That’s working together!
She ends her article with a poetic declaration for anyone to listen to who is in distress or wants to help those who are:
I am a proud resident of Oracoke Island, North Carolina, United States of America. I do not believe in divisiveness. Most survivors of disasters will tell you that there is no better teacher of equality. And while Ocraoke is strong and proud, and has been for over 300 years, we’ve been knocked to our knees by this one, and we need our fellow Americans and our leaders to step in and expedite help immediately. We may have two legs to stand on, but we need more than that right now.
Ocracoke was the ‘secret place’ us travelers didn’t want to share but it’s time to relinquish that notion because these folks and the island need help to recover. Here’s how you can help!
In the wake of this disaster, we are dedicating our new Wave design in remembrance to Ocracoke, as it was the waves that did the most damage. We also know that water is an essential ingredient for all life. As much as it can be turbulent, water can also help to sustain, transform and create new life. We look to our new Wave designs with this in mind.
When you purchase one of our Wave or Sea Life wallcovering designs, you’ll have a choice to either let us purchase and send you a 4Ocean bracelet as our ongoing contribution toward ocean cleanup OR let us know if you would like us to make a $20 donation (link below) in your name for OBX Disaster Relief, to facilitate all essential supplies and cleanup needed for Ocracoke. Many of the residents cannot afford costly flood insurance, so this will assuredly help expedite the island and its residents get back on their feet. If you’d like to make a donation on your own, here is the website and a few more resources to follow the progress in this effort to revive Ocracoke.
Outer Banks Community Foundation — please specify Ocracoke when making your donation.
Island Free Press reports where these funds go and how they are distributed.
As a way to rise up, the villagers have reacted to this sad situation with music, benefit concerts and yoga sessions for stress relief, among other scenarios, as witnessed on these sites that we follow on social media. For the many of us concerned about Ocracoke from a distance, we thank the owners of these sites for giving us peace of mind. Their postings have been invaluable for updates and information. We will continue to monitor and help with calling awareness and support as we can.
Leslie Lanier @BooksToBeRed