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    Posted October 24, 2011 by
    Rodanthe, North Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Hurricane season 2011

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    Hurricane Destruction and Devastation


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     ecotraveler shot these photos of post-Hurricane Irene cleanup and reconstruction efforts in Rodanthe, N.C., during the month of October. 'The economy hasn't been kind to OBXers recently, and Hurricane Irene wiped some of them out,' she said. 'Despite the fact that the island was virtually cut off, residents and businesses have rallied to reopen and recoup what's left of their lives and livelihood. ... The old timers have an attitude of pride and determination to outlive and outsmart these storms and there's a camaraderie throughout as islanders team up and pull together to help each other out and get back on their feet.'
    - jmsaba, CNN iReport producer

    Hurricane Irene was full of surprises when she barreled up the Atlantic, and threatened to hit coastal North Carolina and the outer banks, dubbed OBX.

    And much of the island is still digging out today. Meteorologists up and down the coast speculated on her path, time of arrival, and level of destruction. Veteran OBX dwellers have lived and out - foxed hurricanes on this coast for centuries, using a number of tried and true tricks and observations. Watermen watch and use the abundant Fiddler Crabs’ behavior for one, to determine the strength and path of a storm.

    But Irene had a few surprises in store for everyone.

    Hatteras Island is connected only by a bridge to the rest of her OBX neighbors and it's only by ferry that residents can connect to the mainland and Ocracoke south of her to transport provisions and people.

    Evacuees gathered up and left for what they thought would be only 2-3 days, until the August 27 storm passed and utilities were restored. These determined and seasoned coastal dwellers were already planning their return and the plan to salvage what was left of the end of the tourist season, their survival.


    But what they didn’t count on, was Irene washing out the bridge, virtually cutting the island and what was left of their lives off from much needed provisions, food, gas, and trucks to haul away the debris. Now, the only way to get on and off the island for necessities was to drive farther south on the mainland, then take one 2 ½ hour $15 ferry ride to Ocracoke.  Then another forty minute ferry ride up to Hatteras. Priority was given to Hatteras Island’s 4000 residents, and the ferry stayed booked from early morning to midnight. One ferry was closed to the public entirely, transporting only DOT and priority vehicles.

    That new bridge only opened last week and trucks now make daily pilgrimages to clear the mounds of what was left of people’s homes and lives.

    When Irene veered at the last moment, she sucked the water out of the Sound and rivers as she barreled north.  Then, just as dramatically she dumped it all back suddenly and with a vengeance, chopping out chunks of the road and washing them away as well. The debris that was left was piled up by those who were able, and deposited along with the trailers, boats, personal items, and their children’s toys awaiting their long anticipated removal and the reminder of the devastation Irene caused.

    The luckier ones have now reopened their businesses and one grateful restaurant owner spoke for everyone when he posted a sign thanking the North Carolina DOT workers.

    DOT worked diligently through rain and mosquitoes seven days a week to restore access to the island via the “temporary bridge.”

    They created a newly paved road to partly fill in the new inlet Irene and the Sound had carved. Today, cars and campers frequent the temporary metal structure over a Sound that now almost spans the island here.

    Mother Nature changed the geography of the island forever when Hurricane Irene came to OBX to churn up the lives and livelihood of the hard working people and watermen on the outer banks of North Carolina.

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