Remembering Hugo, N.C. coast residents respect storm Evacuation order is taken seriously HURRICANE BOB

August 19, 1991|By Martin Merzer | Martin Merzer,Knight-Ridder News Service

ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. -- The cars lined up in single file yesterday along beachfront Highway 58, brake lights glowing through initial rain squalls, as Hurricane Bob bore down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The storm, boasting 100 mph winds and broad bands of rain, gained speed and intensity from the warm ocean and respect from wary residents and visitors as it arrived. Police ordered a mandatory evacuation of local beaches. Nearly everyone complied.

Throughout the weekend, Bob seemed to draw an unrelenting bead on the Atlantic Beach area, a popular North Carolina vacation spot called "The Crystal Coast." During much of the day yesterday, the region was pelted by showers from the storm's leading edges.

So vacationers and residents fled -- if that's the term for traffic that took nearly an hour to move two miles along Highway 58, the only road out of Atlantic Beach.

No accidents, no malfunctioning traffic lights. Just a lot of people attempting to get out of Bob's way.

"I don't think I want to be here when it hits," said Sigrid Ludwig of Cincinnati. "I don't have any idea where we'll go, but it will be away from here."

Mrs. Ludwig, her husband, a daughter and a friend arrived at an Atlantic Beach resort late Saturday for a long anticipated vacation. It began at 7:15 a.m. yesterday with an unexpected wake-up call from hotel management: "We've been ordered to evacuate the hotel. You must leave. Now."

Also on the road yesterday were Barbara and Bill White, who arrived the previous evening after a 600-mile drive from Allendale, N.J. They heard about the approaching storm just as they pulled into town. "Just our luck," Barbara White said to her husband on hearing the news.

Hotel manager George Brady, smiling through all the lost business, said, "We even had to cancel a golf tournament," he said. "This is serious."

Despite backups and long delays, there were no reports of panic or violence, and by last night most of the evacuation was achieved, police said.

During the day, the signs of meteorologic trouble were evident all along the Outer Banks, a 90-mile stretch of barrier islands that present no barrier at all to a hurricane.

Visitors and residents headed north and west, some trailing boatsbehind their autos, pickups or vans, some passing a sign at a local dive shop that said: "Let's get wet!"

Property owners boarded up or taped windows and glass doors. Last-minute shoppers searched for batteries and bottled water and bread.

Broadcasters activated the Emergency Broadcast System to relay a flood of weather advisories. Civil defense workers opened and stocked emergency shelters at local schools.

No one expected Bob to be as punishing as Hurricane Hugo was two years ago, but residents weren't trifling with Hurricane Bob.

"I stayed home by myself and was frightened almost to death by Hugo," said Frances Jones, 38, a resident of Morehead City.

She was the first person to register at an emergency shelter set up at a high school. "I just want to be near other people this time."

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