EMERALD ISLE —The town, with help, has finished picking up construction and demolition debris from public right-of-ways near where a tornado touched down and destroyed or damaged many homes and several businesses Sept. 5 as Hurricane Dorian approached the county.
Town Manager Matt Zapp said Tuesday that town public works crews, aided by personnel and equipment from the cities of New Bern and Jacksonville and from Sunland Builders of Newport, removed 450 tons of debris, beginning Sept. 11 and wrapping up Sunday.
It’s now up to property owners to handle their own debris, but town officials said they will continue to do everything they can to help.
“This level of mutual aid is simply amazing,” Mr. Zapp said of the cleanup effort augmented by the local businesses and nearby municipalities in Onslow and Craven counties.
“The entire community of Emerald Isle rallied. The town (public works) staff, local residents and businesses joined forces,” he said.
Lowe’s Home Improvement in Cape Carteret donated materials, such as gloves, totes, buckets and safety glasses, for the cleanup, and Emerald Isle residents donated lunches to the workers at times during the effort.
The tornado, which the National Weather Service has confirmed, began as a waterspout over the ocean. It came ashore around 9 a.m. Sept. 5 near the intersection of Islander and Reed drives.
According to Mr. Zapp, staff has determined “a total of 43 mobile home/park model trailers and 40 RV trailers” in the Boardwalk RV Park were heavily damaged or destroyed.
In addition, he said, two local businesses near the site, Artisan Marble and Granite and Salty Pirate Water Park, were heavily damaged. The Lighthouse Inn and Suites also received significant damage from the twister.
“We have now transitioned to picking up vegetative debris” throughout the town, Mr. Zapp added Tuesday.
The tornado struck as the community was preparing for Hurricane Dorian, which made landfall Sept. 6 at Cape Hatteras.
While some residents were in their trailers at the RV park when the tornado struck, officials reported no serious injuries. Many had heeded the town’s mandatory evacuation call in advance of Dorian.
The site of the disaster is near the town’s Western Ocean Regional Access off Islander Drive, and a spokesperson there said Tuesday that since debris in the area has been cleared, the access should reopen Wednesday or Thursday.
There was no significant damage to the access, but the road leading to it, Islander Drive, was restricted while cleanup was underway.
Gov. Roy Cooper and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., have both visited the site of the tornado and talked to residents and business owners there.
They and state Rep. Pat McElraft, a Republican who lives in town, have told the News-Times they are working to get state and federal money to help those hurt by the tornado. President Donald Trump was to have visited last last week, but didn’t make it because of severe thunderstorms.
As of Tuesday, however, no aid packages have been announced, but the American Red Cross has been working to provide food, clothing and housing for those who have been displaced or left without adequate supplies. The organization also provided portable bathroom facilities at the site for workers and residents.
The state sent insurance department representatives to the site Tuesday to help residents get answers to questions.
In addition, representatives of Trillium Health Resources have handed out information to those who might need mental health counseling now or in the future.