HURRICANE FLORENCE: Bald Head still not accessible

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Brunswick County island sustained major flooding, damage from storm

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Nearly 12 days after Hurricane Florence barreled ashore at Wrightsville Beach 26 miles up the coast, Bald Head Island remains flooded and without power in most places.

“The village’s ability in getting floodwaters lowered in areas still deep with water has been greatly improved today with the teamwork & cooperation of all three organizations and is one step closer in getting this island back to the way we remembered it before the storm,” Village Manager Chris McCall wrote in an update this week. He wrote that “the current and on-going issues the village still face in terms of the remaining power infrastructure and getting power to individual homes continues to be an issue which we are working hard to fix.”

Claude Pope, the owner of Maritime Market, the only grocery store on the resort island at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, said he came back to Bald Head on Sept. 17 by helicopter — ferry service had not resumed as of Wednesday. Pope also has been sending daily updates to residents via his blog and has been providing free food to emergency responders working on the island.

“We’re now desperately in need of resupply trucks,” he said.

Pope said his home suffered some damage, including a window that was shattered and allowed some rainwater to get into the residence.

Jennifer Van Ness, one of the island’s 200 or so full-time residents, said Wednesday she will remain in Richmond, Virginia, until she receives word that the island is ready to inhabit again.

“I think I’ve resigned myself to the fact that they’ll let us come back when it’s safe,” she said. “While I want to get back and I’m concerned about my house … I don’t want to go back until it’s safe.”

Pope said conditions remained difficult on the Brunswick County island Wednesday. He said many roads remain flooded and, with the village’s rule that only golf carts are permitted as vehicles for residents, most places are inaccessible.

“It’s for good reason (residents) can’t come back,” Pope said. “It’s a swamp out here, for crying out loud.”

He also said that, while almost no homes on the island suffered structural damage, people may likely come back to significant mold issues and other problems.

“These poor houses out here are going to be nasty,” Pope added.

Van Ness said she understands the feelings of people who are frustrated, but said she is encouraged by the efforts of village staff and emergency workers.

“They are working so, so hard,” she said. “They’re doing the best they can.”

Reporter Tim Buckland can be reached at