Residents of Dorian-battered Ocracoke Island keep a stiff upper lip in wake of hurricane

Chaffin Mitchell

Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, has had a difficult time regaining its footing in the days since Hurricane Dorian battered the island village last week. As of Tuesday, many areas of the region remain flooded and in need of assistance.

The National Guard and emergency personnel came to the rescue in the wake of the monster storm. Power outages have remained a large issue, but running water has been restored on the island with a boil-water notice and shower trucks have been delivered.

On Monday, officials began allowing permanent Ocracoke residents who had a green re-entry pass or a Hatteras priority boarding pass sticker to board a ferry to come back to the island.

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The United States Coast Guard helping Hyde County Sheriff's Office crews transported to Ocracoke Island to help residents. (Hyde County Sheriff's Office)

Supplies such as food, water, fuel and other necessities were delivered via ferry once it was opened. Ferries also arrived to the island with generators.

Tom Pahl, Ocracoke's county commissioner, told The Ocracoke Observer that getting power back to residents is a top priority. However, he also outlined some of the safety concerns with those efforts.

"If the water rose high enough into your house to cause a short circuit, we can't turn on the electric because that would cause a fire," he said. "We're working with Tideland, Ferry Division and Hyde County officials to get homeowners back as soon as possible."

On Tuesday, Dare County released its damage assessment, putting the total estimated damage at $14,754,600. The damage done in Buxton accounts for over half of the county's estimated total.

"Hurricane Dorian caused significant, widespread, storm‐related property damage as a result of high winds and soundside flooding from storm surge," the county wrote in its damage assessment. "Sustained hurricane and tropical storm force winds over a period of approximately 8 hours caused very highwater levels... High winds caused significant siding, roof and shingle damage in all districts. There was substantial property damage from fallen trees on structures."

Ocracoke, which is located in Hyde County, estimated that 80 percent of homes on the island received significant water damage.

Hyde County and Ocracoke Island officials have received an overwhelming response to the recovery efforts on Ocracoke, and they report that the food and supply donations that have poured in have met their needs.

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Aerial image of Ocracoke Island after Hurricane Dorian. (Hyde County Sheriff's Office)

Ocracoke Island's only school suffered major damage, and officials aren't sure when it will reopen. Pahl told the newspaper that some of the rooms in the school still have standing water in them, rendering large portions of the building unusable.

Elsewhere around the island, other problems are lingering such as floodwaters and decomposing fish, making cleanup efforts more difficult and quite a bit smellier.

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In nearby Cape Hatteras, where Dorian made landfall in the U.S., the Cape Hatteras Secondary School was left largely damaged but badly flooded. On Sunday, Dr. John Farrelly, the Dare County school superintendent, left a message with each family in the school, updating them on the extent of the school's damage.

"As you are likely aware, Cape Hatteras Secondary School suffered significant damage as a large part of the roof flew off during the storm," he said. "As we canvased the building today, about a third of the school has been damaged. We are working on a comprehensive recovery effort to be in a position to open CHSS as soon as possible."

Ocracoke Island resident Chrissy O'Neil
Ocracoke Island resident Chrissy O'Neil said the devastation from Dorian has been "heartbreaking," but the outpouring of assistance is keeping islanders upbeat. (AccuWeather)

Despite the widespread damage on Ocracoke, residents there were remaining as upbeat as possible, particularly given the help that's coming in from outside the island.

"The water just came up higher than anyone has seen it," Ocracoke Island resident Chrissy O'Neil told Nick Sinopoli, a reporter for local station WCTI in North Carolina. "As we realized what kind of devastation we were looking at, it was just heartbreaking."

O'Neil said there has been no shortage of assistance after the storm.

"No matter what happens we all bond together," Ocracoke resident Steve Harris told Sinopoli. "The local communities band together and it's been incredible."

Shortly after the hurricane struck, The National Guard and emergency personnel from surrounding communities stepped in to help.

"Due to the conditions on Ocracoke Island, we are dispatching air transportation units to help evacuate residents that need to leave. We have a shelter set up in Washington County that has food, medical supplies, and power," Public Information Officer Donnie Shumate said in a press release after Dorian hit.

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The United States Coast Guard helicopter before hedaing to Ocracoke Island. (Hyde County Sheriff's Office)

Air units took residents to Dare County, then they were transported by vehicle to the shelter location.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said that about 800 people remained on Ocracoke Island to wait out the hurricane. Residents throughout the region agree that the damage is worse that anyone could have expected.

On Saturday, Cooper spent the day touring the island and meeting with residents.

"People are pulling together to help each other," he told ABC11. "Everyone can rest assure the commitment will be there from the legislature to make sure the resources are there to help... We're just really fortunate it wasn't worse than it was."