LESLIE CRISS: Here’s hoping island of Ocracoke is spared Irene’s wrath

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
– Louisa May Alcott

“Everything about it and the fierce old coast around it, had the ring and taste and feel of utter rightness to me. Its peace and loneliness crept into my veins and ran there, its wildness called out to the deep buried wildness in my heart.”
– Anne Rivers Siddons in “Outer Banks”

I always feel a concern for people in peril, even complete strangers. I think that’s human nature. But a connection always conjures greater concern.
So I was really worried last week when I read Hurricane Irene was heading toward North Carolina’s Outer Banks. And a mandatory evacuation had been ordered for visitors – and the 800 residents – of Ocracoke Island.
I was worried because I spent a week last November in The Minnow, a wonderful cottage with a view of Pamlico Sound.
I was worried because I photographed a gaggle of geese that swam in a pond across the street from The Minnow.
I was worried because most mornings I ate a delicious breakfast at Creekside Cafe.
And I was worried because I became acquainted with Hank and Marty Howarth, the owners of Creekside Cafe on the island of Ocracoke.
Lawyers by profession, they moved to Ocracoke from a large city several years ago and opened their eatery.
From our numerous stops at Creekside Cafe, I got the distinct feeling Hank and Marty’s customers were of two persuasions: regulars and folks who would be regulars if they weren’t just visitors.
We were temporary regulars for our week on the island.
It was unseasonably cold for early November, and it rained more than once. So, in shorts and sweatshirts, we’d grab a table near a heater, order eggs and toast, and be warmed quickly by the Howarths’ kindness.
The 16-mile-long island of Ocracoke is the southern-most island in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and the Outer Banks.
One of many interesting facts about Ocracoke is it’s the place where Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard the pirate, often anchored, and where he was killed in November 1718.
The only way to get to Ocracoke is by ferry, private boat or private plane. You can take a 45-minute ferry ride from Ocracoke to Hatteras, then drive north through the Outer Banks until you find a major highway. Or you can take a nearly three-hour ferry ride from Ocracoke to the mainland near Morehead City, N.C.
Either way, I’ve been wondering about the chaos that could have ensued, trying to ferry no more than 50 vehicles off the island at a time this past week. After all, it’s still summer and the population of tourists can be in the thousands during peak times.
Hopefully, by now Irene will have fizzled out, leaving in her wake little destruction, no injury or loss of life.
I’ll be checking in with Hank and Marty this week, just to make sure they’re OK.
And still serving up delicious breakfasts.
On an island called Ocracoke.

Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio