Dorian as seen through eye of an auxiliarist


By Kathi Neal

Sunday, September 15, 2019

To leave or not to leave: that was my question as Hurricane Dorian approached North Carolina.

My conscience urged me to evacuate. After all, Dare County advised visitors to evacuate on Tuesday and residents to leave on Wednesday. Yet, the weather all last week was beautiful. Over 75 percent of my neighbors on Colington Island were staying. Even so, I dutifully made a hotel reservation in Glen Allen, Virginia, for Thursday and Friday evening.

I heard about the tornados Thursday morning. I saw the damage on the local news. But when Thursday afternoon arrived and the weather was still calm, I decided to stay.

Thursday evening wasn’t too harrowing. The storm was not close yet. I listened to the radio early Friday morning as a woman was reporting Dorian’s eye had just passed over Hatteras. She was certain because the rain had stopped. Briefly.

But then the storm’s eye wall slammed Ocracoke Island and I soon learned that Ocracoke caught the brunt of the storm surge and the village of Hatteras was also flooded. Next Manteo was flooded. The Category 1 storm churned up the Outer Banks coast. By noon on Friday, we had lost power, internet, cable and our mobile data service.

So I listened to the storm winds howl and gust at 50-60 mph. The canal in back of our home looked liked the Albemarle Sound. Six-inch to 1-foot waves were breaking, blowing and splashing over the neighbors’ dock, threatening our bulkhead. Next, the wind was forcing the rain into our doors. We had all towels and buckets on deck. Part of me was glad I was there to perform damage control. The other part wished I was in Virginia.

But all the while, I knew my fellow shipmates were near. Our division and flotilla commanders made sure an emergency call list was in place. There was a spreadsheet listing each member and showing whether they had stayed or evacuated, and their mobile phone number. There were Everbridge Emergency calls and emails sent to all auxiliarists, expecting a response as to whether they were safe and in place, safe and displaced, not safe and in place, or not safe and displaced. Our flotilla commander was in touch with me throughout the storm.

Later Friday afternoon, the winds and rains abated. The canals slowly quieted. Our bulkhead remained unbreached. But we all know that the slightest change in the track of the storm could have changed all that.

On Saturday, I visited Avalon Pier, which is close to my home. I was heartbroken to see that Dorian had claimed the back half of the pier. But I was exhilarated to see that the pier was open for sightseers (it was safely barricaded at the end) and bar patrons and a band were enjoying the evening.

With Dorian gone, the cleanup continues. As the locals on the Outer Banks do after every storm, we will band together to help those in need. Many also will send financial help to the Bahamas.

Most important to me was that most all our flotilla remained on the island and were available, if needed, to respond to a call for help from the U.S. Coast Guard. We are semper paratus: always ready.

Created by Congress in 1939, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard and supports it in nearly all mission areas. For more information about a boating course near you or to learn more about water safety or becoming one of America’s volunteer lifesavers, please visitwww.cgAux.org.