The Brief Life of Hurricane Irene

Fall is hurricane season and some years, the season starts a little early. This year in the last week of August, Hurricane Irene tracked north out of the tropics. It made landfall in North Carolina and continued up the east coast where it turned inland and, dissipating, dumped sufficient rainfall to cause major flooding in the New England states of Vermont and New Hampshire.

The media covered the movements of the weather system as though it was an enemy army advancing on our homeland. According to the Weather Channel this was to be the most devastating natural event of all time. Anticipation ran high that a Katrina-like government response was in the offing to the upcoming catastrophe. Officials outdid one another to proclaim the resources they were bringing to the relief effort.

Then the maximum wind speed began to diminish and the meteorological description changed from a Category 3 Hurricane to a Category 2 and then to a Category 1 Hurricane. The news coverage began to lose its steam. When the carnage didn’t measure up to the hype, the attention focused elsewhere. Hurricane Irene was relegated to the back pages.

But to the residents of Hatteras Island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the storm was devastating. Route 12, the single strand of highway that connects the island to the mainland was severed by the raging seas. The ocean carved at least five inlets through the island to connect with Pamlico Sound. There could be no truck or automobile travel on or off the island.

Electricity was cut off and drinking water was compromised. All water had to be boiled to insure safety. Homes were flooded and neighborhoods swamped. Emergency rations were delivered by boats.

There is a familiar house on Elizabeth Avenue in Hatteras Village that remained standing after the storm. It was built in 1970 by our founder, Mac McClelland, and it is used by many of our employees for their vacations. We trust that with repairs to the roof and cleanup of the water damage, it will again be a place of rest and refreshment for our extended One Write family.

It will be weeks, maybe months, before the return of some kind of normal life there. Yes, the people of Hatteras Island choose to live right up against the vast Atlantic Ocean, and they know their choice has implications. Nevertheless, we watch and pray for their speedy recovery from this one.

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