Ocracoke Welcomes Visitors Back To Island After Historic Flooding

Dec 4, 2019

Volunteers with Samaritan's Purse work on cleaning out a house in an area of Ocracoke Island that was heavily flooded during Hurricane Dorian. October, 2019.
Credit Madeline Gray / For WUNC


It's going to be a new normal for those of us who live here. -Ocracoke Commissioner Tom Pahl

Visitors are now allowed back on Ocracoke Island nearly three months after record flooding from Hurricane Dorian. The September storm produced flash flooding that saw water rise several feet in less than an hour. The flooding broke modern records and damaged hundreds of structures on the island. Authorities reopened the island to tourists this week. 

Tom Pahl, a representative for Ocracoke on the Hyde County Board of Commissioners, says there is a limited number of rental properties and services that have reopened for visitors and that most residents are still focused on rebuilding the estimated 400 structures that were damaged on the island.


A dock along Silver Lake Drive on Ocracoke Island shows signs of damage from Hurricane Dorian a month after the storm hit the island.
Credit Madeline Gray / For WUNC

“All of this debris has been removed from the houses,” says Pahl. “Now, we’re at the point where you're driving by all the job sites and you see piles of lumber and construction workers out there cutting and hauling and trying to put everything back together.”

FEMA approved public assistance for Ocracoke's recovery, but denied individual assistance that would have covered temporary housing, household essentials and repairs.

Highway 12 is still closed between Ocracoke Village and the northern ferry dock. Pahl estimates it will take the island two years to fully recover from the storm.

“It's going to be a new normal for those of us who live here as well as a new normal for visitors who maybe have a favorite restaurant or a favorite cottage that they like to stay at that may no longer be available. We're all having to adapt to the changes.”