Hundreds of people are trapped on the Outer Banks island of Ocracoke in the wake of Hurricane Dorian’s landfall Friday morning, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper says.
Unconfirmed totals report as many as 800 people are on the storm-battered island — and they are being warned to get to the highest point in their homes as storm surge and flash floods threatened to inundate some structures, Cooper said.
“I don’t think rescue crews can get in at this point, but they are ready to go as soon as they possibly can,” Cooper said during a press conference Friday morning, soon after Dorian made landfall in the Outer Banks as a Category 1 hurricane.
The worst damage from Hurricane Dorian so far in North Carolina appears to be at Ocracoke, where wind, rain and a naturally higher-than-normal tide may have combined to create historic flooding that sent some residents into their attics and swamped cars and businesses.
“Not good, it’s not good,” said Rudy Austin, 77, who stayed on the island through the storm. Dorian brought dramatic swings in the tide, as the storm first swept water out of Pamlico Sound toward the mainland and then brought it back with a vengeance.
At its highest point, Austin said, the water stood 2 feet deep inside his parent’s home place, a house built in the 1950s.
“That house has never had water inside,” Austin said. “This water was higher than with any other storm I ever remember, and I remember Hurricane Hazel in 1954.”
By the middle of the day, the water was receding, but Austin said he would wait a few more hours for it to drop and then go out and see the damage.
As he has many times before, he said, Austin moved his two vehicles to a hill to keep them out of flood waters. For the first time, he said, it didn’t work.
“Both of my cars got flooded,” he said.
Cooper called for a mandatory evacuation of the state’s barrier islands before the storm arrived. He said the deteriorating situation showed “we cannot let our guard down” as the storm continues to move north.
State officials blamed the issue in Ocracoke in part on a bridge being out on N.C. 12, north of Ocracoke Village on Ocracoke Island. The 18-mile-long island is the southernmost of the Outer Banks islands, and 90 percent of it is owned by the National Park Service, according to VisitOcracokeNC.com.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore posted photos on Facebook showing the highway — which connects the state’s barrier islands — was covered with water soon after the eye of Dorian made landfall. The park warned flooding was imminent.
“On the backside of the storm, winds will push water from the sound onto the islands,” the park wrote on Facebook.
“The water can rush in quickly as wind patterns shift. Residents of Hatteras and Ocracoke Island should be prepared for extensive sound-side surge.”
The N.C. Department of Transportation announced at 11:30 a.m. Friday that N.C. 12 was closed on Ocracoke due to “severe flooding” from the sounds that separate the Outer Banks from the mainland.
“On Hatteras Island, serious sound side flooding is also occurring. There are many areas of road covered with sand and water,” the NCDOT said on Facebook.
“While there are no reports of structural damage at this hour, residents are strongly advised to remain off the roads until crews are able to assess conditions. Travel on both Ocracoke and Hatteras is extremely hazardous at this point.”
There was high standing water near the Sanderling Resort in Duck that is only passable in high profile vehicles, and on the beach road in Kitty Hawk there is some minor ocean overwash and deep standing water from rain.
A curfew from Dare County Emergency Management remains in effect until noon.
As always, never drive into any flooded areas.
More than 200,000 people in the state were without power Friday morning, due to downed trees and power lines.
Nearly 80 roads and highways were also blocked with water, fallen trees or downed power lines, state officials said. That number was expected to rise to as many as 150 roads as Dorian continued its northward track, officials said.
State officials say about 5,000 people are staying in the 78 shelters that opened across the state at the height of the storm.