NAGS HEAD, N.C. (AP) — Ferry access to hurricane-ravaged Ocracoke Island on the North Carolina Outer Banks was limited to authorities and supply crews Sunday, as residents there continued work on what’s expected to be a lengthy recovery effort.
Damage surveys and work to clean up the mess left behind by Hurricane Dorian were underway, said Hyde County spokesman Donnie Shumate. There was still no power or any sense of when it might be restored, he said.
While it was far too early to estimate the island’s total economic damages, “It’s going to be catastrophic for sure,” Shumate said.
Gov. Roy Cooper has said about 800 people remained on the island to wait out Dorian, which made landfall Friday morning over the Outer Banks and swamped Ocracoke with floodwaters. Residents said the damage is the worst anyone alive has seen, although no deaths or serious injuries were reported.
Shumate said a staging area was set up at the fire station where residents could access necessities such as food, water and cleaning supplies. The Salvation Army was serving lunch and dinner Sunday at a community center, and the county said disaster counseling services would be available.
The county was still under a mandatory evacuation order, and no one but emergency responders and authorized personnel including supply crews were being allowed on ferries. Private boats attempting to access the island would be turned away, the county warned in a news release.
About 100 National Guard soldiers remained on Ocracoke supporting recovery operations, along with a medical team and emergency managers, Cooper’s office said in a news release Sunday.
The N.C. Department of Insurance was coordinating the arrival of insurance adjusters to help homeowners and businesses and will assist with a plan for disposing of the many flooded vehicles on the island, according to the release.
Ocracoke Island resident and restaurant owner Daphne Bennink told The Associated Press on Saturday that the flooding from Dorian impacted the majority of people and businesses on the island, from Ocracoke’s single public school to its one grocery store to entire homes.
She said repairs will likely take weeks if not months on some properties.
“You can’t just get electricity and go back to work,” said Bennink, who owns the Back Porch Restaurant and Wine Bar. “You have all this insulation and duct work that on most properties is going to have to get ripped out and redone.”
Further north on the Outer Banks, which were subject to a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the storm’s arrival, officials in Dare and Currituck counties were staging re-entries for residents and visitors.
“Not every area evacuated is safe to return to just yet,” Cooper said in a statement. “Those eager to return to the islands should follow the re-entry instructions issued by local governments.”
Two deaths in North Carolina were blamed on the storm. One victim was a man who fell from a ladder while preparing for Dorian, and the other was a man who collapsed while cleaning debris at his home.
Dorian peeled away from the coastline after hitting North Carolina and went to sea as it moved up the Eastern Seaboard. On Sunday, downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, it was bringing hurricane-force winds to far-eastern Canada, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people.
By far the greatest devastation caused by the storm was in the Bahamas, where Dorian struck a week ago as a Category 5 hurricane, killing at least 44 people.