Tourists evac­u­ate Ocracoke, Hat­teras amid power out­age

Crowds forced to leave at the height of the sum­mer va­ca­tion sea­son

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - N’dea Yancey-Bragg Con­tribut­ing: Emily Bo­hatch

The lights are out, the AC is off and va­ca­tion is over for thou­sands of tourists slowly mak­ing their way off a re­mote is­land in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

“It’s go­ing to be huge. The is­land was at ca­pac­ity when all this went down, and this is usu­ally the busiest time of the year,” said Don­nie Shu­mate, a Hyde County spokesman. “It will be a ma­jor hit eco­nom­i­cally de­pend­ing on how long it lasts.”

As of Fri­day af­ter­noon, 1,849 peo­ple and 683 cars had been evac­u­ated from Ocracoke, Shu­mate said. The re­mote is­land is only ac­ces­si­ble by ferry, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for tourists to evac­u­ate.

The power out­ages hit Hat­teras and Ocracoke is­lands, but guests are only be­ing evac­u­ated from the lat­ter. Calls are flood­ing va­ca­tion rental of­fices as cus­tomers scram­ble to com­ply with the evac­u­a­tion or­der and plan for black­outs.

“I’m not sure what to­mor­row will bring to be hon­est,” said Shan­non Kinser, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for Sun Re­alty. “There’s just a lot of un­cer­tainty.”

“Peo­ple have a lot of ques­tions, whether it’s ar­rivals for this week­end or de­par­tures. Should they leave early, should they de­lay? A lot of this in­for­ma­tion we don’t have yet,” she said.

Rental com­pa­nies can typ­i­cally ex­pect a new crop of ren­ters each week­end. Va­ca­tion­ers in Hat­teras are be­ing asked not to use wa­ter heaters and may not have air con­di­tion­ing, but Kinser said peo­ple are com­ing down any­way.

Re­funds for guests who leave early or don’t come will be de­cided case-by-case, Kinser said.

Va­ca­tion­ers in Ocracoke be­ing forced to evac­u­ate may be able to make travel in­sur­ance claims. If they don’t leave, they will be guilty of a Class 2 mis­de­meanor, ac­cord­ing to state­ment from Hyde County. Tourists aren’t al­lowed on in­bound fer­ries, which could dis­rupt the ar­rival of new guests this week­end.

The black­outs are forc­ing busi­nesses to close, po­ten­tially for a few weeks, dur­ing their most prof­itable time of the year.

Les­lie Lanier, owner of Books to Be Red, an in­de­pen­dent book­store on Ocracoke, has al­ready seen her busi­ness take a hit.

“We’re miss­ing, right now, the top of our sea­son,” she said. “Even a few days is go­ing to hurt, but if it lasts for a few weeks it will be dev­as­tat­ing and there will prob­a­bly be a few busi­nesses that end up clos­ing.”

The North Carolina Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion Ferry Di­vi­sion has sus­pended pri­or­ity board­ing for all ves­sels leav­ing Ocracoke and waived all tolls for fer­ries on trips be­tween Ocracoke and Cedar Is­land or Swan Quar­ter. Of­fi­cials ad­vised evac­uees driv­ing through Hat­teras to get north of Ore­gon In­let be­fore stop­ping for gas be­cause Hat­teras is also suf­fer­ing from black­outs.

STEVE EAR­LEY, THE VIR­GINIAN-PI­LOT, VIA AP

Va­ca­tion­ers head north Fri­day on Hat­teras Is­land, their time off in­ter­rupted by a power out­age.

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