The White Oak River just before Hurricane Arthur

The White Oak River just before Hurricane Arthur

It would not be unusual to say that the Crystal Coast of North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks owes its economic health to visitors. Yet even here we get a visitor once in a while whose timing is a little off, and Hurricane Arthur certainly came at an inopportune time just at the peak of our holiday season.

The week just before the Fourth of July holiday is without any doubt the most important week in our tourism year. Early in that week of 2014, we first heard that a tropical storm was going to develop into Hurricane Arthur and likely brush the North Carolina coast.

Even those of us who have lived here just eight years like my wife and myself have seen more than one hurricane.  We know to take them very seriously.

As a native North Carolinian, I am no stranger to hurricanes and one of my earliest memories is evacuating the Outer Banks one fall. I was five and the image of water up to the axle of my mother’s 1952 Ford somewhere near the Alligator River has not disappeared.

Like all of our neighbors, we took the pending visit of the storm that became Arthur very seriously. We were here for Hurricane Irene and know what can happen. While our power was only out for three hours with Irene, twenty-four hours of eighty-five miles per hour winds can leave a lasting impression.

Our check list of hurricane preparedness is fairly long. Anything that can blow around has to be secured or moved into the garage or house. We always buy new batteries for our lamps and test them and our emergency radios. The cars have to be filled with gas and we always get some cash to have on hand. I make it a point to trim our palm trees so they have as few old fronds as possible.

We normally tie down our boat which is on a side pole lift and use bungie cords to tie our outdoor furniture to the deck. Then there is the emergency water bottle to fill, a cooler full of ice to get, and non-ethanol fuel for the generator to procure. This time I had a drainage project to finish. I spent a lot of time on a plugged French drain in our driveway so that we would not have a pond for three days in our driveway.

We have learned to watch the forecasts very closely and to understand each storm’s wind field as well as we can. At just before 5PM on Thursday, the first bands of precipitation hit our home three miles up the White Oak River near Swansboro, North Carolina. I was trying to bury the last of the new pipe from our French drain but ended up leaving it to run on top of the ground.

As I dried off and studied the latest storm reports, I made the decision to skip using the bungie cords on our deck furniture and to rely on my normally secure side pole lift to protect our boat. It turned out to be the right decision. At the time of the first precipitation our winds were only running at 10-15 MPH.

While the storm had turned a little inland and was headed for Beaufort, we were not seeing any increased winds or rain.

By 7:00PM or so, it had stopped raining at our house even though we were only 60 miles or so from the eye of the hurricane. I decided to grill some salmon outside. Grilling was no problem since winds were still in the 10 MPH range and there was no rain. Henceforth any salmon we grill with teriyaki sauce will be known as Salmon Arthur.

When I looked at the position of Arthur at 8 PM and the wind field diagram, I got the feeling that Arthur was not going to create any big problems for us. We were west of the track and almost all the wind was east of the track. The hurricane force winds were also in a compact area and Arthur was moving right along at 16MPH.

Our rain started back up but it was no where near torrential like we have seen in some freak storms. By 9PM we were once again in a lull with no rain and only 15-20 MPH winds. The eye of Hurricane Arthur was directly south of us and probably less than thirty miles away. At that point, I was sure that Arthur was not going to throw us a sucker punch and then knock us out.

By 11PM Thursday night, July 3, there was very little of Arthur left to pass by us. Just a few minutes after 11PM, Arthur made landfall somewhere between Beaufort and Shackleford Banks, very close to where Irene made landfall.  We got a gust or two of wind in the 30 MPH range and a few minutes later just after 11PM, the eye of Arthur was passing over Beaufort, North Carolina.

During this time, Arthur strengthened into a category two hurricane and then headed up towards our old stomping grounds, Canada’s Maritimes. It looked like Arthur might go up the Bay of Fundy and cross over our old farm in Saint Croix Cove, Nova Scotia.

By July 5, Arthur’s rains have arrived in New Brunswick. Instead of the rain stopping shortly after they started like they did on the Crystal Coast, the precipitation intensified and kept coming. One of my friends near Hartland, New Brunswick, recorded 4.45 inches of rain. Somehow a weather feature, a sting jet, that is new to me developed and created gusts of 65–80 mph (100–130 km/h) developed along the storm’s backside or west of the track where we had safely weathered it in North Carolina.

That widespread wind and rain devastated the city of Fredericton, New Brunswick.  Even as Arthur was being downgraded to a post tropical storm from a hurricane, it was intensifying with the sting jet and spreading its effects over a very large area. When I called friends in New Brunswick on July 7, I found them entering their third day without power. One friend’s woodlot is over half destroyed. Fredericton is reported to have lost 2,000 of its stately trees. Another report has all the telephone poles down on the twenty miles of the Royal Road that led to our farm in Tay Creek, New Brunswick.

Our friends in Tay Creek were much farther from the center of Arthur than we were and yet we did not even get a pine cone in our front yard, much less 50 acres of woodlot downed.

The weekend after Arthur was a gorgeous one on the Crystal Coast. People were out on the water and the beaches. Homes a few miles closer to the coast than us were picking up debris in their yards but it was mostly small limbs not trees.  We had one friend in Beaufort who was without power for twelve hours. However, mostly it can be said the Crystal Coast and North Carolina dodged a bullet that smashed into New Brunswick, a place far less equipped to handle a severe storm than our area.

While we had some visitors leave besides Arthur, it seems they were replaced by even more people.  Our Saturday, July 5, we had a five mile traffic backup from the bridge.  Arthur while inconvenient got most of us ready for the next time a storm threatens the area. My tomato plants did not even have a problem with Arthur.

Sunday night, July 6, we enjoyed an amazing sunset which somehow said to me that Arthur was finally no longer pounding my friends along the east coast.  The week after Arthur has been one filled with classic Southern heat.

The lesson from Arthur is never dismiss a hurricane until it is completely gone or it might come back to haunt you or your friends. In fact if you are visiting you should pay close attention to the riddle of coastal weather. We have seen a storm that put hurricanes to shame when it comes to delivering lots of rain.  This is NOAA’s summary of Arthur.

As an added note, three days after Arthur arrived in Canada’s Maritimes there are still “tens of thousands” of people without power many in New Brunswick and some in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia where we lived in the early seventies.

There are always plenty of things to do here at the beach especially when there is no hurricane hanging off the coast.

If you cannot make it today, enjoy this video of the waves at the Point on Emerald Isle.  For more information about the beach, check out our newly updated for 2014, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide.  The Kindle version is only $3.99 and it has the same 180 pages of content as the $24.95 print version which Amazon has listed for $22.46 and Prime eligible. Both books  include eighty full color pictures and lots of detailed area maps.  Plus the Kindle version has instant access to over 150 links of additional information.

Our most recent newsletter went out two weeks ago and can be read at this link, Summer Is Here.  You can also read what has been happening in the last few months on our Southern Outer Banks site.

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