Storm grazes NC

BY RACHEL CLARK | OUTER BANKS, NC | September 11, 2002

"It's just a little windy and rainy, but not anything I would consider significant."

—Rev. Troy Freeman

Residents in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina breathed a sigh of relief when Tropical Storm Gustav just barely touched their community.

"It's not bad really," said Rev. Troy Freeman of the Avon Worship Center. "It's just a little windy and rainy, but not anything I would consider significant."

Tuesday morning, Gustav was headed north at 9 mph and forecasted to turn northeast by the end of the day. The National Hurricane Center said Gustav is developing an inner core of strong winds, which is one of the key characteristics of a tropical cyclone. If Gustav organizes and gains more strength, the intensity could cause Gustav to transition into a cyclone.

By Wednesday morning, the storm had moved away from the east coast headed toward Nova Scotia, but had become the first 2002 hurricane. Gustav is forecast to meet a cold front and transform into a powerful extratropical storm by Wednesday evening.

Flooding was a concern for residents near Pamlico Sound, where water could reach up to six-feet above sea level. Classes were cancelled Monday afternoon for students who attend Outer Banks schools.

"There's a concern about the flooding," said Charlie Moeller, chair of the North Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster group. " That part of the state is pretty alert. I'm sure they'll be some flooding, the question is: how much?"

Moeller said the state's emergency response has not been activated and that people who live along that coastal area are watching and waiting.

"In that part of the state people are fairly well accustomed with how to prepare and protect themselves," he said.

Other than buying food, keeping a supply of water and fuel, and securing windows and doors, there's not much people can do to plan for a storm, Freeman said.

"Myself, and several of us at church -- especially the ones who have lived here for a while -- they're more or less used to it," he said. "Most everybody is kind of resigned to the fact that it's going to be windy, it's going to be rainy, and you can't go out and do anything."

At the Food Lion grocery store in Corolla -- the northern part of North Carolina's Outer Banks -- business has been strong, but not overly so.

"We've sold no more than usual," said Customer Service Manager Debbie Franceschi. "Because this is a Nor'easter, it is not a big deal to us compared to some of the hurricane watches in the past."

Franceshi said the weather has been rainy for some time, but that people in Corolla have come to expect storms.

"Sales have picked up a little bit but there's not a panic yet," she said. "I think it has more to do with boredom because people have nothing to do."

At the Manteo Baptist Church -- which is located on a small island between Whalebone Junction and Manns Harbor -- the Rev. Bruce Warrington has not canceled their revival meetings.

"We're not doing anything (to prepare). For us, this is minor," Warrington said. "Most of us enjoy this."

Warrington said many people don't perceive Gustav as a serious threat, although he knows that conditions could change.

"You never know about a storm," he said. "But this one doesn't seem to be anything significant, it's just basically a rainy day."

Because residents in this region of North Carolina are so accustomed to tropical storms, many of them remain in their homes to wait the weather out.

"By and large, I'd say people go about their normal behavior in something like this," Warrington said. "There's a possibility that if you leave, you'll have a hard time getting back in only because of the flooding."

That happened to Freeman a few storms ago. When he left his home to seek a safer area, unsafe conditions and road crews prevented him returning until 3 or 4 days after the storm had passed. He spent almost $600 in food and hotel expenses. Now, he said, unless the storm is a significant threat, he'll remain at home.

"Some people do leave, but the problem with leaving is that if there does happen to be an overwash and washed sand across a road -- especially to the north -- once a storm passes, it could be a beautiful, sunny day out, but they're not allowing you to get back on the island because they're trying to fix the roads," he said. "Unless they have family to go to and can be out of their homes for days, they'll try to stay."

Residents are usually quick to help each other restore their property after a storm has blown through. Large amounts of debris, water and sand usually accompany a tropical storm.

"After a storm, people will go out and help each other clean up the yards," Freeman said. "There's a lot of debris; a lot of it gets washed in from the sound or overwashes."

In addition to clearing yards, streets and public buildings, churches like the Avon Worship center provide residents a safe place to stay.

"There's a fellowship hall here where if it gets to be where people have to bunker down, a lot of times we have helped people here and had meals here," Freeman said.

After Hurricane Floyd dug up the Carolina coast and inland in 1999, the Manteo Baptist Church was one of the many groups who helped residents recover.

"We helped people there rebuild some homes, and got involved in disaster relief," Warrington said. "We've got a large disaster-relief crew in our church. By and large people have rebuilt, but some have not."

Freeman said his church also helped Hurricane Floyd survivors.

"In the past, we've taken up collections of food and finances in the church," he said. "We've had some major shopping sprees - especially for Floyd."

According to Moeller, recovery from Floyd's fury is far from finished.

"We find after most storms, sometimes people think 'I can take care of myself,'" he said. "We've had people come out of the woodworks months, a year after this storm."

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Related Links:

North Carolina VOAD

National Weather Forecast Service in Wilmington, NC


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