Monday, August 03, 2015

Remembering Alex

On this date in 2004 Ocracoke experienced one of the worst hurricanes in memory. This is what I reported about Hurricane Alex eleven years ago:

"Gusts at the Ocracoke ferry office were reported to be as high as 120 mph. Sustained winds were probably 80-100 mph. But the biggest surprise was the tide. After noon today the wind shifted and brought some of the highest tides Ocracoke has ever experienced. Older residents report that only in the 1944 storm was the tide up so high. Numerous homes had water in them, some as deep as several feet. Residents of the Jackson Dunes area reported water as deep as 6-7 feet. On Howard Street the tide came in 6 inches higher than hurricane Gloria in 1995.

"All sorts of debris is scattered throughout the village and on the streets. Several trees are down, at least one dock has been destroyed, a small skiff was sunk, hundreds of automobiles have been lost to the tide, and some homes have lost shingles and/or ductwork, but no major damage has been reported, and as far as I know, there has been no injury or loss of life'

High Tide Lines at Village Craftsmen

The next day I wrote, "Everyone is safe and there is no major damage on the island. However, everything is a mess. Wood, branches, propane tanks, etc. are scattered all over the village. Water is still standing in low places. Boardwalks and some docks have floated across lawns and roads. At least one vehicle was totaled when a tree fell on it. Two cars burned up when the owners tried to start them after the flood."

Because the storm intensified so quickly, no evacuation was ordered. As a result, hundreds of vehicles were destroyed by flood waters. One rental house burned when a car parked underneath shorted out and caught fire.

Perhaps some of our readers will want to leave comments about their experiences during Hurricane Alex.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter tells the delightful story of the 19th century "Stovepipe Hat" wreck. It has been told for years in books & magazines, but it probably never happened. You can read the story (and my research) here:


  1. Anonymous8:40 AM

    "The storm intensified so fast no evacuations were ordered..." is this the lesson, pay attention to the weather each day when there is a tropical storm weather event developing; Be prepared to act well in advance to avoid a mad rush. That sounds as if that is easier said then done but does one need an official leave the island report?. Is the average person complacent ,unable to read the weather, lacks a sixth sense, and then when you see a giant hurricane on the weather news ala Katrina headed straight at you ala NOLA -- still people stay put and do not evacuate!. But I am in the Good Lords hands and if he ... the Lord helps those who help themselves. Be Safe Hurricane season does not end until NOV.1!!!!!

  2. Julie S.8:49 AM

    Didn't realize how tough the salt water is on vehicles! Does it require special/additional auto insurance to live on the island? Is there a way to "prep" a car prior to a storm and/or "clean" a car after a storm to save it? I have heard mention of moving cars to the cemetery - is this the highest ground? Here's hoping for a mild season this year!

    1. No additional auto insurance is required, and the best thing to do as a storm approaches is to park your car on any hill or higher ground (there are various places around the village that are less likely to be flooded). Spraying the car (especially underneath) with fresh water helps. If salt water gets inside the car, or into the engine and wiring, it's best to buy a new vehicle!

  3. In a flooding kind of way, your Alex almost sounds like our Irene up here around Rodanthe, where it was said that 90% of the vehicles were totaled.
    I remember Alex as the storm with no evacuation called for. The decision makers got caught with their pants down, and the tourists really paid for it.
    Hatteras Village and Buxton also felt the brunt, but not like Ocracoke. Rumor said that some 600 cars were flooded altogether. Didn't a car rental company set up a temporary business at Swan Quarter or Cedar Island?
    I made a blog entry in 2011 commemorating my experience with Alex.

    1. Mike, I don't remember a temporary car rental enterprise on the mainland, but it sounds possible. Thanks for the link to your photos.

  4. Anonymous4:01 PM

    We vacationed on Ocracoke the week immediately following Hurricane Alex, and the most prevalent sign of damage we noticed--aside from the one home that burned to the ground--were the dozens and dozens of cars with orange stickers on their windshields labeling them as disabled. These cars were parked in driveways and alongside roads throughout the village, but also loaded on numerous car carrier trailers to be trucked off the island.

    More than once, over the many years we've been vacationing on the OBX, we've spent time as evacuees watching The Weather Channel from a mainland hotel, waiting for the all-clear to return to Ocracoke.

  5. gsmith3:11 AM

    We were there for Alex. Fortunately our vehicles weren't damaged. Here are some pics of the house fire:

    1. Thank you for the photos.