Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene Day 5 Late

Kinston, my old hometown where my sister still lives and where we stayed the last two nights, got the snot kicked out of it. The storm was HUGE and seemed to last forever. On one level, it was "just" wind and rain. But it left widespread devastation. At one point during the early part of the hurricane, we were sitting in my sister's sunroom when we heard the massive (6 ft base) pin oak shed a thiry-foot long limb, Julie (my sister) and I hurrying Taylor and our mom out of the room. The limb fell beside the street.

Taylor and I got cabin fever late in the storm while the worst of the wind continued and decided to drive around. We dodged a falling tree and witnessed the demolition of several houses from huge oaks or pines falling into the roof. Power poles snapped low. Debris everywhere. High winds that gusted and breathed and gusted some more. Just when you thought the rain might subside, a torrential downpour surged through.

Storm winds lasted late into the night. Then I heard the frogs singing and knew the storm was gone.

This morning, I began to research access to the coast, damage and roads etc. We could not reach anyone down east by phone, so Taylor and I decided to just head down and see if we could get through. Skies were clear, the breeze fresh and cool.

Towndock.net (see that URL) had published photos from the hurricane and during the passing of the eye (directly over Oriental). Major storm surge, flooding and a sunken boat at our marina (Oriental Harbor Marina).

Taylor and I drove toward River Dunes just before noon having dodged downed power lines and trees and traversed much debris, including where Highway 55 had flooded. Several miles down Straight Road, then onto the approach road for River Dunes. A Rescue vehicle stopped us to say that the road was entirely blocked and unpassable ahead. We came to the entrance into River Dunes, two miles from the Marina. Not too much damage within the development. Ahead, the marina, masts still vertical.

Wild Haggis was fine. She looked as if we had left her 30 minutes earlier. Not a scratch. No chafed lines. We dodged the bullet through none of our own effort.

I spoke with another captain and we agreed that, had this been a strong Cat 2 or 3, as forecast, the marina would have been a scene of total devastation as the floating docks left their pilings (they came within less than a foot of the tops) and all boats were blown to the southern shore in a jumbled pile of broken plastic (fiberglass). Two crew who rode out the storm admitted it was hell despite the absence of damage.

Back in town, we talked with Mark who manages our marina. The surge reached the bottom of the General Store deck's top lumber. In the midst of the worst of the hurricane, he was wading chest-deep onto the dock to dive underwater to re-tie docklines as the water rose. Floating or sunken debris could have killed him.

Dock A, our dock, was empty except for two derelicts that did not sink, though one's jib shredded. Most slips lost their finger docks, their dock boxes and their power pylons. None of us know what debris is now on the bottom of the fairway or our slips. There is no power, nor any expected before mid-week. Water must be boiled for drinking.

Still no word from our friends on South River. We are all worried.

Tay and I stopped by to check on friends who were at Wayfarer Cove, a protected marina upriver from Oriental. They, too, survived the hurricane without damage but stressed that it was nothing they would want to repeat. David was constantly changing the tension of the lines during the storm.

Then we headed out to my parents' home on Bogue Sound where, strangley enough, power had been restored by 5 AM, long before anyone got back there. Plenty of blown debris, but nothing major and no danage except to their pier, which always gets twisted and bowed.

While we were cleaning up this evening, Cameron heard from his friend whose family had ridden at anchor in South River. They made it!! I trust that our other friends did as well. We cannot wait to see them. Back on our home dock without power or water or any modern conveniences. Happy to know that everyone came through the worst storm to hit this part of the coast in decades.

Our plan is to rejoin the Wild Haggis tomorrow AM and then sail back to Oriental where we can be near friends and assist in cleanup. Yes, Kinston was in many ways much more badly devastated, but it is a small community like Oriental that needs all of its residents helping in every way they can. We like that.

To all of our friends who have followed our travails, we thank you for your support. Please stay in touch. There is plenty of 2011 hurricane season remaining.

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