N.C. expected flooding from Hurricane Irene -- and got it
Out in the broad, flat, marshy peninsula of Carteret, N.C., that the locals call “Downeast,” everyone expected flooding to come with Hurricane Irene, and they got it Saturday.
Downeast is a starkly beautiful, working-class place, home to shipbuilders and commercial fishermen. Along Highway 70, which snakes from the picturesque town of Beaufort up to Styron Bay, many of the modest homes were surrounded by water Saturday afternoon.
It rippled in yards, in drainage ditches, and over driveways. It lapped against picket fences and decorative lamp posts. In many cases, it appeared to have made its way inside.
In the town of Davis, a quaint roadside store called Davis Shore Provisions would normally be selling espresso and local art to curious tourists on a summer day like this one. Today, it was boarded up, with a sign that advised: PRAY FOR GOD’S PROTECTION.
Down the road, a big, handsome, five-bedroom Colonial-style home sat on a lot that had become a shallow lake.
Inside, owners Phillip and Wanda Smith, both 72, gathered for an early-evening supper of shepherd’s pie with their two grown daughters, Dana Nelson, 48, and Anna Smith, 47, as well as Dana’s 18-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old great-granddaughter.
Nelson said the daughters made a point of coming over yesterday to ride out the storm with her elderly parents.
“They came," her mom shot back, "because we have a generator.”
It had been a trying day. At midday, the water crept into a recessed den, filling up about a foot high. Then it receded with the tide.
The power was out, and the generator was running out of gas. They counted six cars and a truck that were flooded. At 5:30 p.m., the rain continued to pound and the wind continued to howl.
They seemed as though they had had enough.
Dana was asked what they did to amuse themselves all day. “We haven’t been amused at all," she said.
Phillip Smith, a stoic, silver-haired man in a rubber wading suit, grew up here, and made his living in the commercial fish business.
Downeast had been good to him. But he and his wife said they’ve never gotten used to the storms and the floods.
“We had that conversation just this morning, in fact,” Wanda Smith said. “I told him I’d rather move to Australia and live with the snakes.”
--Richard Fausset in Davis, NC
Photo: Lexus Meekins, 9, and her aunt Jessica Meekins help Lexus' brother Freeman, 5, walk along a flooded street away from the beach in Buxton, N.C. Credit: Ted Richardson / Bloomberg