Swansboro Harbor seen from ICW

Swansboro Harbor seen from ICW

After living here on the North Carolina coast for five years, we are finally faced with a serious hurricane.

Just how close Hurricane Irene will pass from our area won’t be known until later this week.  At our home, we are about as prepared as we can be at this point.  There are some things that we won’t do until we have a better idea of how close Irene will come to the area.

We will decide whether or not to bungee down the deck furniture on Friday. At that time I will also decide how much extra gas to buy for the generator.  I will probably also get a cooler full of ice on Friday in case we just have a short term power outage.  We already have all our emergency supplies.  I also won’t tie down the boat and put it on storm footing until the last moment since I hope to keep monitoring the water at least in the river until the last moment.

When we selected our home in June of 2006, we considered a lot of things, and how a hurricane might impact our area was one of them.  When we started our home search, we consider a number of spots on the east coast from Assateague Island on Virginia’s eastern shore to Oak Island south of Wilmington.

Included in the places we evaluated were Hatteras Island, Nags Head, and Ocracoke Island.  Those three spots had been some of our favorite vacation spots, but when we tried to imagine ourselves living that far out in the ocean, we just couldn’t do it.  We’ve lived in the South long enough to know how often the Outer Banks have been evacuated.

One of my earliest memories as a child is my mother driving us away from Nags Head as a storm approached.  I can still remember the tires of the car in deep water.

If you have spent significant time on North Carolina’s coast, you know the land varies widely along the barrier islands.  There are places like Canadian Hole near Buxton and Emerald Isle near Third Street Beach where the strands of sand are very narrow. There are also places like Hatteras Island and portions of Emerald Isle where the islands have dense vegetation.  Emerald Isle also has hills and some high ground.

I actually feel pretty good with the wide part of Emerald Isle between us and the Atlantic Ocean.  While there is no doubt that water can surge up the White Oak, it is somewhat constricted by the bridges in Swansboro and the causeway in Cedar Point.  The river also widens after the bridges.  In the three miles to Bluewater Cove, the river grows to nearly two miles in width.  From looking at flood maps it appears that historically flooding has been worse up the river where it once again starts to narrow.

However, since we live on a tidal river, a lot depends on when Irene visits us.  It looks now like Irene will pass closest to us around 8 AM on Saturday morning if the forecast issued early on Thursday morning is correct.   We will have an outgoing tide as Irene departs.  With a potential of four to six inches of rain and a surge of around three feet, we are likely to see water over the top of our dock like we saw on September 30 of last year.

The good news is that when the tide goes out on a two mile wide river, the water goes down.  We saw that happen on September 30 last year when we got 20.25 inches of rain in less than eight hours.  While it rained very hard for another four hours after the water got over my dock, the water started dropping as soon as the tide started going out.  I am counting on that happening again, but we will have to see what happens.

Irene looks like she is going to give a number of cities north of us lots of trouble.  Accuweather has provided an interesting table that showed forecast impacts for major US cities.

Certainly as you look at the picture in the post of Swansboro Harbor taken the morning of August 24 or this sunset picture take around 8PM the same day, you would guess that a hurricane is on the horizon.  We did see one person putting up plywood for storm shutters.

I am thankful that we have lots of weather people to warn us when storms take aim at the coast.  I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to prepare for a storm that you didn’t even know existed.

There will be more reports here on preparation for Irene in the coming days.