Editor's note: This article was last updated Sept. 7 at 4:43 p.m.

EMERALD ISLE — Before Hurricane Dorian spawned floods Down East and along the sound side of the state’s Outer Banks early Friday, a Thursday morning tornado walloped the Boardwalk RV Park in Emerald.

Officials said later the hit was far worse than initially thought.

“Josh (Edmondson, town planning director) has done an assessment that shows it impacted 60 units in the park and also impacted five businesses,” Town Manager Matt Zapp said Friday afternoon.

That was about 30 hours after the waterspout formed in the ocean and crashed ashore as a small but powerful tornado a little after 9 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of Islander Drive and Reed Drive.

In addition to the park, the tornado severely damaged Artisan Granite and Marble, the Lighthouse Inn and the Salty Pirate Water Park. It also destroyed an ice vending machine, as well as some campers on a storage site owned by Ronnie Watson.

Mr. Zapp said he feels for the business owners and wants the town to help them recover, but it is the owners of the RVs that tug at his heart.

“I was on my way across the (high-rise bridge from the mainland) when this happened,” he said. “I drove up and Tony (Police Chief Tony Reese) and Bill (Fire Chief Bill Walker) were there, and so was Emerald Isle EMS. They had been going door-to-door to see if anyone was inside.”

It was a miracle, Mr. Zapp said, that no one was injured seriously and it was heartbreaking to see the people who owned the units looking at their personal belongings – photos, furniture, books and the like – scattered in an instant like leaves from trees.

He’s not sure how many of the owners were there at the time, but knows some of the units were occupied.

“We think we can control or influence nature, but we can’t,” Mr. Zapp said.

The town had called for a mandatory evacuation in advance of Dorian, and many occupants of the RVs left, he said. Some were in the middle of trying to leave when the twister struck.

The town ordered the evacuation Tuesday, effective Wednesday at 8 a.m., and also banned alcohol sales effective at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. It also announced the high-rise bridge would close at 10 a.m. Thursday and a curfew would be imposed at 7 p.m.

Mr. Zapp said the restrictions were necessary for public safety and worked well.

All were lifted Friday, and he praised town staff and elected officials for working together to implement them smoothly.

Former Manager Frank Rush, he said, left behind an amazing leadership team when he resigned last year, and that team had just been through the disaster of Hurricane Florence in September 2018.

“It was fresh in their minds,” he said. “They knew what to do. They were on point and executed their tasks flawlessly. It is good to be a part of something like that.”

Although some people criticized the town for banning alcohol sales during the storm, Mr. Zapp defended it as necessary. The county did the same, he said, and Emerald Isle has done so before.

“It’s for safety purposes,” he said, as it’s not smart to have people walking or driving around to buy alcohol during an approaching storm and a curfew. The measure didn’t address consumption.

Mr. Zapp, who before coming to Emerald Isle to replace Mr. Rush was town manager in Benson, said other than the tornado, there was no significant damage from the storm, just some tree branches across roads.

Town public works crews were up early Friday to clear those before the curfew was lifted and the bridge reopened.

One of the other major concerns was flooding, because Hurricane Florence left streets and yards inundated, some, particularly in the Coast Guard Road area, for days and weeks.

The town rented extra backup generators and pumps for Dorian, but they were not needed.

“We were so fortunate,” Mr. Zapp said.

Now, the goal is to get the debris cleaned up from the tornado site so restricted sections of Reed Drive and Islander Drive can be reopened as soon as possible.

Friday, town police were restricting access to the site because of hazardous conditions, as owners of the RV units and businesses assessed damage and began their cleanup effort. That had been impossible since the storm hit later Thursday.

Town staff cleared the roads, but the remaining cleanup is up to the owners and the private contractors some have hired.

There were even volunteers on the site, such as Jack Gillette of Swansboro and Javier Chavez of Cape Carteret.

Both are members of the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Swansboro and said they frequently volunteer to help out people on Bogue Banks after storms.

They said they were not needed Friday, but they plan to go to the Bahamas soon to help Dorian victims there.

“Sometimes we volunteer, sometimes we get paid,” Mr. Gillette said. “But we wanted to help the people if they needed us.”

It’s quite a task, Mr. Zapp said of recovery.

 

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

 

Previous report

EMERALD ISLE — Before Hurricane Dorian spawned floods Down East and along the sound side of the state’s Outer Banks early Friday morning, the Thursday morning tornado that walloped the Boardwalk RV Park in Emerald Isle was the lead story in news coverage of the storm.

And it was actually far worse than initially thought.

“Josh (Edmondson, town planning director) has done an assessment that shows it impacted 60 units in the park and also impacted five businesses,” Town Manager Matt Zapp said Friday at 3 p.m. That was about 30 hours after the waterspout formed in the ocean and crashed ashore as a small but powerful tornado a little after 9 a.m. near the intersection of Islander Drive and Reed Drive.

In addition to the park, the tornado severely damaged Artisan Granite and Marble, the Lighthouse Inn and the Salty Pirate Water Park, and it destroyed an ice vending machine, as well as some campers on a storage site owned by Ronnie Watson.

Mr. Zapp did not know the name of the owner of the ice machine.

Mr. Zapp said he, of course, feels for the business owners, and wants the town to help them as much as it can to recover. But it was the owners of the RVs that tugged at his heart.

“I was on my way across the (high-rise bridge from the mainland) when this happened,” he said. “I drove up and Tony (Police Chief Reese) and Bill (Fire Chief Walker) were there, and so was Emerald Isle EMS. They had been going door-to-door to see if anyone was inside.”

It was a miracle, Mr. Zapp said, that no one was injured seriously. And he said it was heart-breaking to see the people who owned the units looking at their personal belongings – photos, furniture, books and the like – scattered in an instant like leaves from trees.

He’s not sure how many of the owners were there at the time, but he knows some of the units were occupied.

“We think we can control or influence nature, but we can’t,” Mr. Zapp said.

The town had called for a mandatory evacuation in advance of Dorian, and many occupants of the RVs had left, he said. Some were in the middle of trying to leave when the twisted altered their lives forever.

Mr. Zapp said he’s glad so many had already left, because the more people who might have been there at the time, the more the chance a disaster that involved cherished personal possessions could have been more than that – a loss of lives.

The town ordered the evacuation Tuesday, effective Wednesday at 8 a.m., and also banned alcohol sales effective 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. It also announced the high-rise bridge would close at 10 a.m. Thursday and a strict curfew would be imposed at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Mr. Zapp said the restrictions were necessary for public safety and worked well.

All were lifted Friday, and he praised town staff and elected officials for working together to implement them smoothly.

Former Manager Frank Rush, he said, left behind an amazing leadership team when he resigned last year, and that team had just been through the disaster of Hurricane Florence last September.

“It was fresh in their minds,” he said of everyone the town employs. “They knew what to do. They were on point and executed their tasks flawlessly. It is good to be a part of something like that.”

Although some people criticized the town for banning alcohol sales during the storm, Mr. Zapp defended it as necessary and the right move to make. The county did it as well, he said, and Emerald Isle has done it before.

He said that even in retrospect, he couldn’t think of a reason not to do it.

“It’s for safety purposes,” he said, as it’s simply not smart to have people walking or driving around to buy alcohol during an approaching storm and a curfew. The measure didn’t say anything about consumption, just purchase and sales.

Mr. Zapp, who before coming to Emerald Isle to replace Mr. Rush was town manager in Benson, said that other than the tornado, there was no significant damage – just some tree branches across roads – from the storm.

Town public works crews were up early to clear those before the curfew was lifted and the bridge reopened.

One of the other major concerns had been floods, because Hurricane Florence left streets and yards inundated, some, particularly in the Coast Guard Road area, for days and weeks.

The town rented extra backup generators and pumps for Dorian, just in case, but they were not needed.

“We were so fortunate,” Mr. Zapp said.

Now, the goal is to get the debris cleaned up from the tornado site so restricted sections of Reed Drive and Islander Drive can be reopened as soon as possible.

Friday, town police were restricting access to the site because of hazardous conditions, as owners of the RV units and businesses assessed damage and began their cleanup effort. That had been impossible since the storm hit Thursday morning.

Town staff had cleared the roads, but the remaining cleanup is up to the owners and the private contractors some have hired.

There were even volunteers on the site, such as Jack Gillette of Swansboro and Javier Chavez of Cape Carteret.

Both are members of the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Swansboro, and said they frequently volunteer to help out people on Bogue Banks after storms.

They said they were not needed Friday, but they plan to go to the Bahamas soon to help Dorian victims there.

“Sometimes we volunteer, sometimes we get paid,” Mr. Gillette said. “But we wanted to help the people if they needed us.”

It’s quite a task, Mr. Zapp said.

As soon as possible, he said, the town wants to get out the message that all of Emerald Isle is back to normal.

 

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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