Hurricane Florence UpdateChris Shank, Executive Director
Here is a brief story about our September 27 island adventure to assess potential damages to the Conservancy:
Pam Smith, Sharon Eisele, Mike Thomasen Jr. and myself ventured to the Bald Head Island on Thursday, September 27 to visit the Conservancy’s campus for the first time after the hurricane. BHI Limited was running only one ferry at 800 and you had to have an invitation from Chris McCall to join the trip (I invited Pam and Sharon to check out Turtle Central).
Once on the ferry, the first thing I noticed was the stench of the Cape Fear River = truly awful. As we arrived in the BHI harbor, the docks and landing looked to be in pretty good shape with no major damage noticeable. In the overnight lot, there was a little bit of windblown sand covering the pavement and a good number of plastic cart covers lying on the ground next to sandy carts, but still, it was not a bad scene.
Because of the flooding that persisted on many of the major wynds, to travel across the island, you had to ride in a pickup or other large vehicle so we jumped on the back of Adam’s truck from Tiffany’s Rentals. We started into the forest on Federal Road and immediately noticed a good bit of standing water on the side of the roads and occasionally covering the main roads; the smell was most certainly not a pleasant olfactory sensation. Trees had largely been cleared but there weren’t many large live oaks down that we noticed. Because of flooding on Federal Road, we had to take Muscadine to South Bald Head to reach the Conservancy. Much of South Bald Head looked good with only a few flooded streets that were being pumped. When descending the hill at the intersection of South Bald Head Wynd and Federal Road, the nasty smell returned and we had to drive through knee deep water to reach the Conservancy. You DID NOT want to walk or drive a golf cart through these puddles of standing water!
When we drove into Thad and Lee Wester Circle in front of the Conservancy, the road was dry with only scattered debris about. The first building we entered was Turtle Central and to our joy, it smelled just like Turtle Central - no mildew smell at all but rather the normal pleasant fragrance of the store! Careful examination of the merchandise and interiors showed no signs of water entrance! Hurray!
Unfortunately, Mike’s Bites did not smell quite as nice and apparently had some water infiltration likely via some ceiling leakage, but it wasn’t too bad.
Looking into the courtyard towards the Barrier Island Study Center, leaves and twigs covered the ground, but the minimal tree damage was a good sign for the buildings. You could also hear the hum of our generator that had been working non-stop for 2 weeks. Upon entering the BISC, there were no obvious mildew smells and the aquaria which had been hooked up to generator power were bubbling = another good omen. The lab areas were also operational and the animals in our touch tank appeared just fine with no signs that a hurricane had just moved through. The BISC did have a few areas of mold and mildew on the ceilings (above Poul’s desk and men’s restroom mostly), but nobody’s desk appeared to have received water leakage from above. The library and kitchen looked good and the refrigerator was cold because the generator had never stopped working (no smelly food). The only area in the BISC that was especially moldy was the media center - several chairs and spots on the carpet had a nice fuzzy green mold, perhaps the remnants of spilled coffee and sugar (Pam Smith sprayed the areas with some vinegar and water). This room needs a deep clean, but the video equipment appeared to be OK.
I next checked the Fleming Education Center and did not see any issues there other than mold around an upstairs light fixture – both classrooms were good and the large upstairs room with bunkbeds was clean and did not smell any worse than usual.
Finally, I entered the dorm building and the smell was not nearly as pleasant, but it was the smell of rotten food in the refrigerators and NOT water damage! (The interns are now enjoying the task of cleaning those refrigerators.) Only the unoccupied upstairs middle bedroom may have had some water leak through the ceiling, but it wasn’t clear whether the stain was there previously. All other bedrooms appeared to be clean and dry.
About 1015 that Thursday morning, after the initial building inspections, the electricity came back on and the air conditioning units began pumping nice cool air in all buildings! More good news for that morning was a voicemail from someone that wanted to make a nice donation!
Leaving the Conservancy’s campus that afternoon, I felt fortunate that it had withstood Florence’s fury, but I also felt heartbroken for those on BHI and across eastern NC who lost so much and are having to rebuild their homes and their lives. Our sincere thoughts and prayers go out to those who were not so lucky.
Update since returning to BHI:
The Conservancy’s doors opened back up on Monday October 1 and we have several immediate tasks ahead including:
1. Further assessing damages to our campus, including figuring out whether our golf carts are charging/working and if our beach patrol UTVs are functional.
2. Collecting data on the impact of the storm on water quality in the creeks, ocean, and aquifer, as well as assessing the fate of our remaining sea turtle nests and wildlife populations.
3. Rescheduling our Barrier Island Botanists trips for the Brunswick County 6 th graders for the springtime.
Click here for the full sea turtle update
10/11/2018 - the swimming advisory for Bald Head Island has been lifted.
New Bald Head Island Community Website By: Kit Adcock & Cathy Hofknecht
With the challenges from Florence, we have created the Bald Head Island Community website to provide homeowners with up-to-date pertinent information regarding the recovery efforts and clean-up. This site is a work in process and we will be expanding it over the coming weeks and months. We have already have a published a number of important tips including dealing with propane tanks, finding contractors, white goods disposal, appliance discounts at Lowes in Southport and more. Please visit the site at http://bhicommunity.com/