- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. — The locals who decided to brave Hurricane Isabel were busy yesterday boarding up their homes — and surfing.

“The waves are really strong,” said Billy Pullen, a landscaper from nearby Newport who came to surf with friends off the Triple S Pier. “They are huge, they are kickin’ [and] they are smokin’.”

Isabel had winds of 105 mph yesterday that were pushing high waves into the Carolinas, which was helping prolong Mr. Pullen’s endless summer.

“Last week, I was in Florida, and I surfed [Hurricane] Fabian,” said Mr. Pullen, 20. “As soon as I heard this was coming here, I decided to come up. We all know each other here and just have fun.”



The Category 2 storm was about 300 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras late yesterday afternoon and moving northwest at about 15 mph. The National Hurricane Center in Miami expected it to hit the Carolina coast by this morning and produce surf 11 feet above normal.

Tony Turbeville, a commercial fisherman residing about 500 yards from the ocean, said he had been surfing for more than 25 years and wanted to have some fun before the storm drove everyone indoors.

“If you get waves like this, that this is the time to surf,” said Mr. Turbeville, 40.

Cecil Brown, a real estate agent, came from Wilmington to watch over his parents’ vacation home and ride a few waves.

“I am always apprehensive because you never know what is going to happen, but this is fun,” said Mr. Brown, 29. “The northeast winds have kept the waves clean and well-formed.”

A hurricane warning was in effect yesterday afternoon from Cape Fear, N.C., to Chincoteague, Va., but the rain and winds had arrived by late yesterday afternoon.

Not everyone on this southeast corner of North Carolina was as excited as the surfers about the powerful waves, including some middle schoolers enjoying the unexpected day off.

“I am not going out there,” said Summer Renfrow, 14, whose friend Talton Cherry was surfing with the adults.

“I just like surfing a lot, and the waves aren’t that big,” said Talton, 13.

Haley Elizabeth Peel, 5, just wanted to stay at the beach and play with her aunt.

“We are going to paint each other’s toenails,” Haley said as she, her older brother and her aunt walked near the beach.

About half of the homes were boarded up with plywood, some spray-painted to indicate which room the board was covering and others with messages instructing the impending storm to “go away.”

Many of the homes also were decorated with yellow ribbons and U.S. flags, signs of the community’s ties to nearby Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base and Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station.

“There will be a lot of wind and a lot of rain,” said Lana Ganim, 40, general manager of the Triple S Motel. “We will lose power because we have every time so far, and after the fact it gets real humid.” The Triple S, the only motel on the island still open for business, was filled yesterday with journalists and locals afraid of staying in their mobile homes.

Bobbi Nichols of Winston-Salem was supposed to be enjoying her vacation at the retirement home she and her husband bought a few years ago. Instead, she was preparing food and securing the house before staying with a neighbor whose house had a more sturdy foundation.

“If I really thought my life was in danger, I’d be out of here,” said Mrs. Nichols, 53. “I have too much to live for. I love my kids and my grandkids.”

Not everyone who was here yesterday was planning on staying.

Joey Caviness traveled from Greensboro to pick up his boat and secure his home before heading back last night. “This is one of these adventures you don’t have to go through twice,” said Mr. Caviness, 47, who stayed for Hurricane Dennis in 1999.

The evacuation routes had heavy traffic yesterday, but no major backups were reported.

Some of the surfers said the waves were bigger Tuesday and that the storm would be less powerful than forecast.

Miss Ganim from the Triple S Motel thought otherwise. “There is always a calm before a storm,” she said. “And you never know what is going to happen. You just never know.”

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