Hurricane Irene

Scott Cahoon, Hatteras Island Phantom Photography

As you stroll out toward the end of the Rodanthe Fishing Pier, it is impossible not to notice that it’s not entirely straight.

It goes a little bit up. It goes a little bit down. The pier jogs a little to the right and left in different places. A few boards are loose, too, and it’s mighty windy. In other words, it’s not perfect, but for Terry Plumblee, being here is a lifelong dream come true.

US Army Corps Of Engineers

North Carolina’s most recent Sea-Level Rise Report is the product of decades of tidal gauge data, computer modeling and hundreds of years of collected scientific expertise. But Jon Britt doesn’t need all that to tell him the water’s getting higher. He just needs to look out his back door.

NCDOT

State transportation officials are working to permanently fix N.C. Highway 12 in Dare County. NCDOT officials say they are in the process of hiring a contractor to build a permanent bridge that will resist future washouts.  

Currently, a temporary metal bridge links where the roadway was destroyed by Hurricane Irene last year. 

Secretary Tony Tata said in an agency release that the project will be an important step in offering a reliable route to the Outer Banks for businesses, residents and visitors. 

Hurricane Ivan
NASA

Early forecasts predict an active hurricane season along the Atlantic coast. 

Researchers at Colorado State University expect 18 named storms this year.  They say four of those will likely be major storms at Category 3 or higher. 

William Gray, a professor emeritus in Colorado State's atmospheric science department, says this winter's ocean currents follow trends that lead to active storm activity in the tropics.

"This circulation has been especially strong," Gray says.

One year ago Hurricane Irene made landfall near Cape Lookout. The Category 1 storm was slow moving and lingered along the North Carolina coast, killing seven people and causing $1.2 billion in damage. Julia Jerema works for North Carolina Emergency Management. She says recovery efforts are not quite complete.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it will begin dredging the Hatteras Inlet channel on Saturday, and not a moment too soon for ferry passengers. Service on the Hatteras-Ocracoke route has been suspended several times since the weekend. Lucy Wallace is with the North Carolina Ferry Division.

More than a hundred coastal families displaced by Hurricane Irene faced a deadline yesterday to move out of mobile homes provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But North Carolina Emergency Management says all of them have been given a 30-day extension. Dawn Baldwin Gibson of the Pamlico County Disaster Recovery Coalition says many residents are still trying to get money for repairs from their insurance or mortgage companies.

Scientists are getting a better understanding of storm erosion on the Outer Banks. New technology developed by the Army Corps of Engineers is illuminating why storms damage certain spots and not others. Jesse McNinch is Director of the Corps' Field Research Facility in Duck.

Engineers from the state DOT meet with federal wildlife officials this afternoon to consider options for repairing Highway 12 on the Outer Banks. Storm surge from Hurricane Irene breached the highway in several spots on Hatteras Island. The options include beach re-nourishment, creating bridges above the existing road, or bridges that re-route the highway. But at issue in today's meeting is how the options might affect the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Beth Smyre  is the DOT planning engineer who oversees the project.

Residents have a chance to weigh in on the state's emergency response to Hurricane Irene. Emergency management officials and forecasters are hosting public meetings this week in eastern North Carolina to review their communication tactics during the storm. Rich Bandy is the lead meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Newport.

Hurricane damaged Highway 12 on Hatteras Island is the subject of two public workshops this week. The only road along parts of the Outer Banks was breached in several places by Hurricane Irene in August. Traffic is rolling again on temporary fixes, but state officials want to move forward with permanent repairs. Greer Beatty works for North Carolina's Department of Transportation.

The deadline approaches for victims of Hurricane Irene to file flood insurance claims. Residents who experienced damage have until Wednesday to send a damage report to insurers that issued a National Flood Insurance Policy. This week's deadline is a 30-day extension of the original October cutoff. FEMA spokesman Jeff Welsh says that was in response to residents who were not satisfied with inspections immediately after Hurricane Irene.

Dare County continues to struggle with re-building and with high job loss since Hurricane Irene hit two months ago. 

The latest unemployment numbers from across the state show a majority of counties experienced a drop in their jobless rates.  But not Dare County.  In August – the unemployment rate in Dare County was 7-point-5-percent – much lower than the national and the state rate.  But in September - the jobless rate was nearly two points higher.  Kenny Kee manages the Employment Security Commission office in Nags Head.  He says people couldn’t get to work after the storm.

State agricultural officials travel to eastern North Carolina this week to get an update on recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Leaders from the state Department of Agriculture will meet with farmers today in Rocky Mount and Thursday in Winton. Former Congressman Bob Etheridge is an advisor to the governor for hurricane recovery. He says some crop damage might not be covered by state or federal disaster funds.

Wayne Goodwin
NC DOI

The North Carolina Department of Insurance has set up a series of temporary insurance assistance centers in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Irene. The centers are designed to help customers who believe they are not being treated fairly by insurance companies.

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin decided to open the centers after his office fielded a steady stream of complaints from customers in coastal counties.

Goodwin says many complaints have centered on non-existent or non-communicative insurance adjusters.

Small businesses on Hatteras Island are struggling to turn a profit a month after Hurricane Irene swept across the Outer Banks. That's despite a decision from the Department of Transportation earlier this month to restart ferry service for both visitors and residents. Keith Andre owns a construction business in Frisco. He says building centers that usually provide his equipment are nearly empty.

FEMA's announcement that it won't run out of funds this week is good news for counties in eastern North Carolina. Local governments have been fronting the bill for disaster relief without a guarantee of reimbursement after Hurricane Irene. In Hyde County, health director Wesley Smith says officials ordered an insecticide spray from low-flying planes for 20,000 acres. He says flooding caused a boom in the mosquito population.

Residents of Hatteras Island will be allowed to return home today.

AAA Carolinas expects more drivers on the road this holiday weekend despite damage from Hurricane Irene. The agency says about 870,000 motorists will be traveling in North Carolina over the Labor Day weekend. That's about 1 percent more than this time last year. And AAA Carolinas spokesman Tom Crosby says that includes areas with storm damage.

Public schools across eastern North Carolina are implementing backup plans for classes due to extensive damage from Hurricane Irene. In Tyrrell County, all but one public school building were breached by three feet of water and sewage. Students there are on a limited schedule in makeshift classrooms until further notice. State school support director Ben Matthews says coastal districts are still trying to come up with estimates for how much it will cost to repair their schools.

US Senator Kay Hagan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Governor Bev Perdue
hagan.senate.gov

Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands remain cut off from the mainland after Hurricane Irene dumped water and sand on several parts of Highway 12. There are several breaches in the highway just north of Rodanthe. Governor Bev Perdue says officials are doing all they can.

Agriculture officials say most of North Carolina’s biggest and most profitable farming operations are in the state’s coastal region that was hit hard by Hurricane Irene.  

Tobacco was one of the hardest hit crops during Hurricane Irene – a 750-million dollar industry.  Brian Long is with the state Agriculture Department.

Brian Long:  "If you think about how much tobacco was still out there, yet to be harvested, and then, Irene’s wind and rain just did a really big number on that crop."

Dare County officials are asking residents to conserve power as utilities set up emergency generators on Hatteras Island. Parts of the main highway on the Outer Banks were washed away in four spots near Rodanthe. That left residents who waited out the storm stranded on Hatteras Island. Dare County spokeswoman Cathryn Bryan says emergency crews are taking bare essentials to the hardest hit areas.

Hurricane Irene's flood waters caused some waste water treatment plants to overflow in the eastern part of the state while cutting off power to others. State officials are warning people in flooded areas to avoid contact with contaminated water as they begin the arduous task of clean up. Susan Massengale works for the North Carolina Division of Water Quality.

Hurricane Irene is gone but its effects linger on. The storm couldn't have come at a worse time for an area that relies on its tourism industry. Irene completely washed out a section of Highway 12 just north of Rodanthe. That means the only way to reach Hatteras Island as the important Labor Day Weekend approaches is by boat. Michael Gardener is manager of the Sea Side Inn in Hatteras Village.

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