Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fleeing the Hurricane......

The Outer Banks are lovely, but they are prime territory for hurricane damage.  Our campground had had to fully rebuild after hurricane Irene took out almost the entire place.  The updated bathrooms had a "Hurricane Irene Flood mark" on the wall.  I assure you, it was higher up than the roof of our cabin across the street from it. 

The weather during our brief stay was absolutely beautiful, but we began hearing people murmuring about an approaching storm while we were touring Kitty Hawk.  We were pretty disconnected from news and such, so we just kept on swimming and stargazing.  Having driven several hours on a narrow two-lane road onto a sandbar that is 17 miles by boat from the nearest shore, I did contemplate just how insane the word "evacuation" might make things, but, hey, no worries!  We're on vacation, right?  Despite our ongoing propensity for beaches we've managed to never run into a hurricane.  So far, anyway.

On our last morning on the OBX, I caught a glimpse of the Weather Channel on TV as we were checking out. It looked.....interesting.  I watched long enough to figure that we might want to consider upgrading to a cabin at our NEXT site, but since that one was a bit more inland, it looked like we were headed toward safer ground. 

Since we were continuing south on the OBX, we were heading toward the storm.  The only way off of the southern end at Cape Hatteras is to take a free ferry (45 minutes) to Okracoke Island, drive down the island and catch a second  ($15, 3 hour) ferry to the mainland.  Our plan was to dawdle down the sandbar, see the lighthouse at the cape, find a good seafood restaurant for lunch and enjoy our boat rides.

The lighthouse was beautiful.  Breakfast was seafood omelets in a tiny place called The Gingerbread House (we took some gingerbread men to go).  The ferry from Hatteras to Okracoke was peaceful.  The town of Okracoke reminded me of Nantucket minus the hills - tight, twisty streets, ocean views everywhere, pelicans on every pier post.  We figured we'd buy ferry tickets, and then explore the town.

Notice the sky?  Not looking too 'hurricane-y' to the south yet.  The view to the east wasn't too threatening either:

As I was asking for tickets for the three o'clock ferry, a TV tuned to the Weather Channel showed that Arthur had picked up speed, and been upgraded from "Tropical Storm" to "Level I" and then "Level II" hurricane status while we'd been shell hunting on the beaches. The (only!) sales clerk paused to answer the phone while I waited.  After the call was finished, she said, "I can't sell you tickets. The one o'clock ferry is sold out. The later ferries are now free because the state just issued a voluntary evacuation notice.  It will be first-come-first-served.  I suggest you get in line."  Oh.  Dear.  I guess I'm going to get to see first-hand how crazy things get when the e-word gets tossed out there. 

Matt and I did a huddle.  Pros and cons of exploring the town versus being aggressive about staying with the truck to hold a place in line?  Meanwhile, the one o'clock ferry is loading.  I went to check on procedures with the people who were in charge of that process.  "Lady, I got one more spot on this boat if you want to go!" 


If God gives you a spot on the sold-out boat, get on the damned boat, right?  And here we are - almost hanging off the back of the ferry.

We didn't find our awesome seafood restaurant.  But we had baby carrots, smoked cheddar, mayo, mustard and whole wheat in the cooler.  We got more than one envious look from hurricane refuges reduced to snacking from the machines.

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