Updated: Access to Ocracoke restricted, evacuation order pending after Isaias becomes hurricane

N.C. 12 on the north end of Ocracoke Island, which has been repeatedly washed out by storms, on Friday, July 31, 2020. [NCDOT image]

BREAKING NEWS: Access to Ocracoke restricted IMMEDIATELY. ONLY residents, homeowners, vendors, and other essential personnel allowed on to ferries. Details about evacuation order to follow. We will update this story with further developments

You will need an Ocracoke re-entry pass on the vehicle or adequate documentation to be allowed on ferries inbound to Ocracoke beginning at 8 a.m. today, July 31.

The Ocracoke Control Group will meet again this morning to discuss any future protective measures needed. Decisions on evacuation orders will be released shortly after the completion of this meeting.

Tropical Storm Isaias became a Category 1 hurricane late Thursday, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.

Erik Heden at the National Weather Service office at Newport/Morehead City joined Sam Walker on News/Talk 92.3 WZPR Friday morning to discuss Isaias.

Click the player to listen:

The Outer Banks is gearing up for possible impacts from the storm, with the Ocracoke Control Group meeting by phone conference Thursday evening to hear updates and discuss evacuation plans and timing.

Hyde County Commissioner Tom Pahl said in a Facebook post that there were roughly 12 Control Group members plus partners from state and federal agencies, as well as county staff on the call.

“We heard updates from our partners and from Joey Williams, our new Director of Emergency Management,” Pahl said. “We had a discussion about the potential track and intensity of the storm. We discussed timing for an evacuation should one be ordered, though we agreed that we would like to see the 11:00 update from the NHC (Friday) before we make a recommendation regarding evacuation.”

The Ocracoke Control Group was meeting again Friday morning.

“There was some additional discussion about the viability and wisdom of issuing a State of Emergency early (Friday). We are especially concerned about timing of a potential evacuation because of the limited availability of sound class ferries,” Pahl said. “That is a challenge that may be further aggravated by a USCG order to take one ferry out of service on Saturday.
We will keep you updated. Ocracoke Strong!”

Ocracoke was devastated by flooding from Hurricane Dorian last September, and is still in recovery mode.

While the future track and intensity of the storm is still in question, the first impacts from this system along the coast of North Carolina will likely be increased swell and rip current risk arriving late Friday and continuing through the weekend.

“Since this morning Isaias’s forecast intensity has increased to hurricane strength off the coast of North Carolina but confidence remains medium that the event will occur, and low regarding impacts,” said Dare County Emergency Management director Drew Pearson.

“Initial impacts that we will see are changing ocean conditions with increasing rip current risk tomorrow into the weekend,” Pearson said. “Arrival of tropical storm forces winds should be expected Monday morning along with other impacts that include storm surge and rain.”

“At four days out, impacts to the state are still unclear and much could change but if you reside in eastern N.C., make no mistake, you must be ready,” said state Emergency Management director Mike Sprayberry.

“People living in areas prone to hurricane-caused flooding, should make a plan to stay with family or friends, or at a hotel, if they have to evacuate,” Sprayberry said.

Sprayberry said during a COVID-19 briefing Thursday that staying at a shelter will not be a good primary option during the pandemic and should only be a last resort.

“We are encouraging those living in a safe place inland to offer to let family or friends evacuate to their home,” Sprayberry said. “Non-congregate sheltering options like hotels and dormitories are preferred this year, but not guaranteed.”

Tropical Storm Isaias increased in intensity to 60 mph on Thursday, with the center located just northwest of Haiti.

Hurricane conditions and dangerous storm surge are expected in portions of the central and northwest Bahamas late Friday and Saturday.

Tropical storm conditions will continue to spread across portions of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Turks
and Caicos and the southeast Bahamas tonight through Friday.

Isaias is the earliest ninth named Atlantic tropical storm on record. Hurricane Irene formerly held that record, forming on Aug. 7, 2005.

Stay with OBXToday.com for updates on any potential impacts Isaias may bring to eastern North Carolina.

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About Kari Pugh 660 Articles
Kari Pugh is digital director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach her at [email protected]