The flooding that was behind the bulkhead that is beside our dock which also saw some high water disappeared well before Irene's rains stopped. Fortunately when the tide went it took a lot of water with it.
Now things behind our home on Raymond's Gut look very normal except for the two missing trees that our neighbor took out because of wind damage.
Hurricane Irene recently made landfall about 35 miles to the east of our home on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks. It did not take our area long to get back to normal. Our home three miles up the White Oak River from Swansboro and seven miles from the Emerald Isle beaches withstood strong winds and heavy rain from Irene for nearly twenty-four hours without any major problems.
Some places, like Hatteras Island and the back side of Pamlico Sound were not so lucky and will take weeks if not months to recover.
Irene was the first serious storm to visit our area, often know as the Crystal Coast, since we started spending much of our time here in September 2006.
Like many more experienced coastal dwellers, I watched Irene closely. I also used many of the latest Internet tools to make my own calculations which turned out to be very close to being right except for missing the long time it took for Irene’s wrap around winds and rain to move out of North Carolina.
The Weather Channel never darkened my television screen. The local weathermen have been through this before and focus on telling us what is going to happen instead of standing in the wind at Nags Head.
We also paid attention to the advice of professionals in putting together our hurricane kit, or emergency gear and supplies. A life of facing some extreme weather has taught us to respect mother nature. Less than a month after getting married in 1973, my wife and I were caught in an early season snow storm in our 200 year old farm house on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. We were without power for a week. Our youngest daughter was born during a blizzard when the temperature dipped to minus forty. School was cancelled because authorities thought children might be at risk since the snow drifts were as high as power poles in some places.
With the dangers that we have faced in mind, our hurricane kit for Irene included everything from flashlights and gallons of water to an emergency generator and plenty of non-perishable food. We were ready for Irene with our deck furniture secured to the railings with bungee cords, coolers full of ice and plenty of batteries. We were well prepared for Irene, and even bought a generator which is close to standard equipment here.
It was not a surprise that we didn't hear from our grown children before Irene made landfall. Perhaps the knowledge that their parents have spent many of their years in challenging climates kept them from worrying about us.
I am certain that our children knew that we had recently been tested at our coastal home when in September of 2010 we received more than 20 inches of rain in just a few hours. My story of standing on our dock in a few inches of water in torrential rain as the tide turned and the water started dropping probably brought to their minds images of Captain Dan in Forest Gump lashed to the mast of the shrimp boat. Still they knew we had faced more rain than any hurricane in memory had delivered to the area.
Likely they were also tired of hearing me say that there are benefits to having a tidal river two miles wide as a nearby drain, but years of living in the Virginia mountains taught us that rain can be a much bigger problem in the mountains than on the coast. Finally I suspect visits to our coastal home had given them a sense of the history and resilience of coastal North Carolina. It is hard not to notice that Swansboro and Beaufort both have buildings dating back to the 1700s in spite of being fishing towns located right on the coast.
Even easier to see are the gigantic power poles installed by our local electric cooperative just a couple of years ago. That line of huge power poles is less than two miles from our house.
So when I sent them a note that our power had come on only fourteen hours after it had gone off, I doubt they were very surprised. We might have caught them a little off guard with the ice cream cones that we enjoyed on Emerald Isle not much more than twenty four hours after Irene came through the neighborhood, but they are used to a few surprises from their parents.
We have made our rounds since Irene visited. I have found an estimated 12-15 acres of new sand on the Point at Emerald Isle. Other areas like Ocean Oaks and Third Street Beach lost sand. It is just the nature of beaches, they change all the time. In November 2007 water was lapping at the edge of the vehicle ramp onto the Point. On August 29, 2011 after Irene, there was 1,662 feet of sand from the vehicle ramp to the water.
Other than some very minor structural damage, the Crystal Coast came through Irene with just lots of downed tree limbs and shredded vegetation. The ten to fifteen inches of water that Irene left behind were actually welcome since we were in a drought all summer. The Atlantic Beach and Bogue Inlet fishing piers sustained some damage but both are open. The Sheraton in Atlantic Beach is closed through September 6, but it is the only area lodging that I have heard that is not open.
There were a couple of sailboats that got washed from Taylor's Creek in Beaufort, but I suspect that happens with most major storms.
I have taken our skiff down the river a couple of times since Irene. All the buoys appear to be in place, and so far the only hazards to navigation that I have seen have been crab pots crowding the channel buoys.
If you are thinking about an end of season vacation, the Crystal Coast is ready. Rumor is that the first mullet blow was Friday, September 2, so the fish should start biting in earnest soon.
For a guide to the area including Swansboro, Cedar Point, and Cape Carteret along with a detailed 2011 travel guide for Emerald Isle and a printable map, check out my "Welcome to the Beach" site.
That our piece of paradise survived Irene is tribute to some luck, good planning, and our geography among other things.