On the Outer Banks, those who have seen a storm's fury now fear Emily

August 30, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

CEDAR ISLAND, N.C. -- All along the crescent-shaped beach line from Wilmington to Cedar Island, life seemed calm, almost indifferent to the eerie forecasts of 110-mph winds and hurricane swells hitting tomorrow.

But fear filled the ferry returning from Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks yesterday evening.

Phyllis and Mike Harring weren't shy about sharing their terror of nature's newest plan for the Carolinas.

The Harrings, who camped overnight Saturday on Ocracoke, had watched Hugo throw 100-year-old trees down their hometown street in Charleston in 1989.

"I want to tell people, you don't know," said Phyllis Harring, 50. "The awful winds -- it does something to a person. It stays with you. Right now, this one's not even supposed to go past my house, and I feel fear."

The locals seemed far from fearful. No hammers knocked plywood over windows. No panic lines formed at grocery stores, though grocers sold out of bottled water.

One man in line at Swansboro's Food Lion brushed aside the hurricane reports and defended his choice of colas and chips. "Do I have to be buying emergency provisions to be here?" he asked.

The Harrings and their friends Tom and Kathleen Yarbrough of Southport returned to Cedar Island, about 40 miles northeast of Morehead City, on the 4 p.m. ferry. All during the two-hour trip across the Pamlico Sound, the couples listened to the emergency weather channel and charted Hurricane Emily's possible path on a map spread over the Harrings' car trunk.

They thought people on Ocracoke and aboard the ferry acted blase about the hurricane watch. Phyllis Harring said she was almost disgusted to see aisles in Hatteras stores full of bottled water and batteries -- the post-Hugo staples.

Ms. Harring didn't know that Hyde County authorities ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke.

Ellen Goodwin, supervisor of the ferry service, said several people taking the late ferries back to the island were only going over to save favored belongings and would return at once.

Traffic coming back to the mainland was only slightly heavier than usual for a Sunday, she said.

Kathleen Yarbrough didn't feel safe at Cedar Island and was even more scared of going home to Southport on the North Carolina coast.

Ms. Yarbrough remembers the "winter hurricane" from last March's blizzard. She and her family waited out the winds in her home built on stilts. The storm had no eye but plenty of gusting, hurling might.

"I heard air-conditioner units being ripped off other homes and being blown under our house," she said, cringing. "They didn't even give that storm a name. I hate to imagine what this one will be like."

Emma Morris, a lifelong resident of the town of Atlantic, was waiting late yesterday at her job at the Driftwood Motel to hear more specific reports on Emily. Ms. Morris' mother and mother-in-law are in their 80s, and she said she would stay in Atlantic to take care of them.

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