Stay or go? As storm shifts, many elect to remain

091318 Hurricane
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Richard Smith preps his 34-foot sailboat, "SV Weatherly," for the arrival of Hurricane Florence at Lamb’s Marina in Camden County, Wednesday. Smith, a former tugboat captain, says he plans to ride out the storm, expected to arrive late today or early tomorrow, on his boat at the marina, which he considers one of the best "hurricane holes" anywhere.

091318 Hurricane

By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, September 13, 2018

CAMDEN — Bob Templeton said he didn’t really want to leave his home at Camden Point ahead of Hurricane Florence’s arrival. But because his kids insisted, he decided to evacuate.

“I’m going to Virginia only because my kids want me to come,” said Templeton, who said he was preparing to leave for the Virginia Beach-Chesapeake area on Wednesday.

Templeton explained that he and his wife live in a house that’s only about 20 feet from the Albemarle Sound, so their kids, who live in Virginia, are naturally concerned about their safety given the predictions about the storm surge and flooding accompanying Florence.  

Templeton, who’s lived at Camden Point since 1987, said his property has a bulkhead that he installed after a March 1993 storm brought water up to the house.

“If it was up to me I would just stay,” Templeton said. “My wife and kids are dictating where I go.”

Templeton was like many area residents Wednesday torn between staying and riding the storm out or evacuating. Although Pasquotank, Camden and Elizabeth City officials have not issued a mandatory evacuation for the area, they are encouraging those living in vulnerable areas to evacuate to higher ground.

Ryan Gray was at the Duck-Thru in Camden on Wednesday buying ice to get his family through what he expects will be a hard rain from Florence. Gray, who said he’s staying and riding the storm out, said once the rain lets up he’ll be able to safely use his generator. He was buying ice because he doesn’t want to have to open his refrigerator door before then if the power goes out.

Gray said his family briefly considered leaving but then decided flooding could make it hard to get back home.

“The way I look at it, if it starts flooding real bad they might not let you come back in,” he said.

Jehu Bryant of Camden said he actually changed his mind about evacuating.

“We were going to go,” Bryant said. “We’re kind of game-plan-changing at the last minute.”

Bryant said he and his family had planned to evacuate to Pennsylvania and already had hotel reservations there. They decided to cancel and stay in Camden after seeing Florence’s revised storm track Wednesday morning.

The storm, which is still expected to make landfall Friday night, is now expected to veer farther south than previously forecast. The National Weather Service office in Wakefield, Va., is projecting the storm to straddle the North Carolina-South Carolina border. That’s reducing the amount of wind, flooding and storm surges the Albemarle is anticipating from the storm.

Bryant said the decision to stay has kind of disappointed his kids. They had hoped to visit an amusement park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on their trip up north, he said.

Bryant expects his family will make it through Hurricane Florence OK. They have a generator at home, he noted.

Richard Smith said he also plans to stay put on his 34-foot sailboat, “SV Weatherly,” which is docked at Lamb’s Marina in Camden.

Boat owners and employees at the marina said they didn’t know of anyone planning to evacuate with their boat. In fact, they said, other boats were coming in because of the marina’s protected location.

“This is a ‘hurricane hole,’” Smith said. “This is where everybody runs to because it’s naturally protected. I’ve been here in pretty good winds before.”

The only real problem on a boat is high or low water, Smith said. He expects a high water level during Florence but has inflated a dinghy so he can get to his car — which he keeps on high ground — in case the water rises above the dock.

Smith said he’s been keeping his boat at Lamb’s Marina about two years.

“I’ve seen a fair amount of storms out here,” he said.

For 20 years Smith was an open ocean tugboat captain based out of Louisiana and he has been sailing for 50 years.

“I’m on my 13th sailboat now,” he said, noting SV Weatherly “is 52 years old and still strong.”

Smith has a house in Guatemala and may leave soon to sail back down there.

“This is really a great marina and a great hurricane hole,” Smith said, explaining that he’s stayed at others and considers the one at Lamb’s one of the best.

If the storm had stayed on its originally projected track there would be even more boats at the marina, Smith said.