Tiny Buxton hit hard by storm AFTERMATH OF HURRICANE EMILY

'THE WORST WE'VE EVER HAD'

September 02, 1993|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,Staff Writer

BUXTON, N.C. — An article Thursday in The Sun should have stated that Hurricane Gloria occurred in September 1985.

The Sun regrets the error.

BUXTON, N.C. -- Never in her wildest dreams did Bonnie Farkas picture the waters of the Pamlico Sound overflowing their banks, pouring down the streets of Buxton, crossing her lawn and flowing into her green-and-gold living room.

Although Hurricane Emily missed many towns along the Outer )) Banks on Tuesday night, it took a vicious sideswipe and hit this little fishing town -- and Mrs. Farkas' home -- hard.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

And yesterday, as Mrs. Farkas stood looking at the sight of a house smashed by six fallen pine trees and swept off its foundations by floodwater, she expressed a bewilderment and resignation echoed by many other residents.

"I've lived here 23 years and part of life is always storm and wind, but I've not seen anything like the sound coming up that high," she said. "I never imagined it would. It never has."

Perched on the curl of Hatteras Island, Buxton is known to outsiders as home to the black-and-white striped Cape Hatteras lighthouse and as a mecca to game-fishermen and windsurfers.

Few of its residents heeded the mandatory evacuation order issued earlier this week. Instead they chose to weather this storm just as they have weathered scores of northeasters and hurricanes before.

But longtime residents said yesterday that not since Hurricane Gloria in 1944 have they seen such fury and strength.

"In my 77 years, it is the worst we've ever had, the most damage," said Edgar Hooper, a retired businessman. "I've seen harder winds with Gloria, but not flooding like this."

The town looks as though a giant had picked it up and shaken it. The sound, whipped by 115-mile winds, flooded the streets and homes with up to 4 feet of salt water. A Boston Whaler boat sits on a front porch here. There, a telephone booth floats on its side in a parking lot.

Emily left its mark on nearly every building. Some businesses or homes merely had windows blown out. Other waterlogged wooden houses sag, their occupants sitting on stoops that lead directly into front yards that had become ponds.

Parts of Route 12, the two-lane highway that serves as main street, still lie under 6 inches of water. There is no running water to drink, no working telephones, no electricity. Many homes, serviced by still-submerged septic tanks, have no plumbing.

"The water'll be gone in a day or so," says John Hooper, owner of the Lighthouse View Motel. "The damage, now, that'll stay around for a day or so."

Behind him, his motel parking area is covered by about 6 inches of water. Perhaps half his 73 rental units are water-damaged, he said. Some are gone. The roof of one of his cottages is down the street in a neighbor's yard.

His own home is fine, Mr. Hooper says, "other than the three pine trees on top." He has never thought about leaving the island, hurricane or not. "I live here," he says. "My whole life is here."

As John Couch sloshes through his roofless auto parts store, he fields questions from members of the news media -- who, like the floodwater, descended upon Buxton with Emily.

"This is just one of life's setbacks," he says, gesturing at the soggy ceiling insulation, smashed motor oil cans, wiring, boxes and broken glass that lie in a jumble on the floor of his store. "It's one of the things you live with down here."

No one was allowed onto Hatteras Island yesterday except year-round residents, emergency workers and the news media. Dare County officials declared the town to be under a state of emergency.

By noon, National Guard helicopters flew in huge "water buffaloes," containers of drinking water. Salvation Army workers in red-and-white trucks handed out sandwiches and sodas to rescue workers and residents. Red Cross supply trucks began arriving in late afternoon.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Farkas was struggling to neaten her home. She has no insurance -- ever since Gloria blew through, her husband, an engineer for the Hatteras ferry, hasn't been able to get home insurance.

But Gloria caused only minor destruction to her property, says Mrs. Farkas.

"I guess we'll rebuild, piece by piece," she says, as she lays out family photographs and sewing patterns to dry on a plank in the living room.

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