- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 20, 2003

HATTERAS, N.C. (AP) — A house floats 300 yards in the sound off this fishing village. Motels used for years by fishermen and vacationers are gone, and so is the main road.

“This island is destroyed,” said Mike Datesman, 48, a village resident who was checking out the damage left by Hurricane Isabel on state Route 12 yesterday. “I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to put it back the way it was.”

Mr. Datesman was among stranded residents wandering the beach to watch waves lap across an area that was once part of the only highway on the Outer Banks. Within 1,000 feet were three separate cuts from the Atlantic Ocean to Pamlico Sound.

Heather Brushwood, 37, who stayed through the storm, said she was shocked.

“It looks more like a tornado than a hurricane,” she said. “It will never be the way it was.”

National Guard troops patrolled the smashed sport-fishing village at the southern end of Hatteras Island yesterday while the estimated 300 people marooned there waited for help.

State ferries that normally take travelers between Hatteras and Ocracoke Island are now bringing in power company and National Guard vehicles and Salvation Army mobile kitchens.

Near the house floating in the sound were rental cabanas that had washed from the beach to the sound. One street running from Route 12 to the sound was little more than an 8-foot ditch scoured by water and wind.

Sound waters were littered with debris from homes and decks and dead turtles and fish.

Dare County Commission Chairman Warren Judge said residents were frustrated but coping with the situation.

“When you get down there you’ll see they’re a robust bunch of people, and we’re giving them all the attention we have,” Mr. Judge said.

“We are bringing in supplies as fast as we can. We’re sending water, fuel, generators, and we’ve been getting things in since the morning after the storm.”

Three Carolinians were killed, two by falling trees and a utility worker who was electrocuted. About 189,000 customers were without power yesterday, with about 11,000 people still hunkered down in shelters.

In the colonial-era town of Edenton, emotions continued running high as residents waited for help.

“The county feels a little left out because they haven’t heard from the National Guard,” said Chowan County Manager Cliff Copeland, whose office is in Edenton.

The town of about 5,300 people on a bay off Albemarle Sound was among the hardest-hit inland locations in northeastern North Carolina after Isabel came ashore on the Outer Banks.

Tree limbs and power lines littered streets of the long-ago state capital, forcing traffic to weave through the tangles. Some homes were flooded, and a few sailboats were torn from their moorings and carried onto land. About three-quarters of the town’s businesses were closed yesterday.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge addressed the concerns of Edenton and the region’s other suffering towns at a news conference in Elizabeth City.

“They’re all number one. We just can’t get there all at the same time,” Mr. Ridge said.

“Any elected official in any community in the path of the hurricane wants their community to be number one on the list,” he said. “If they didn’t feel that way about their community, they shouldn’t represent them.”

Mr. Ridge said it would take time to set up disaster field offices. Gov. Michael F. Easley, a Democrat, said he was impressed with the federal government’s response.

“This is the first time in my career that a federal agency has called me before I called them,” Mr. Easley said.

Chain saws snarled and generators hummed yesterday as construction crews worked to dry out waterfront houses, and utility crews worked to restore power. Neighbors surveyed damage at one another’s homes. One resident put boxes of doughnuts on a table in the front yard.

“I’m sure we could use the federal government’s help, but look around: We’re working hard,” said Sam Dixon, 42, an Edenton lawyer who lives a block from the waterfront in a house built in 1810. “We’re just lucky to be here. Everybody takes care of everybody. It’s just a small town.”

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