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Home! Dewees reopens after Irma!

Hurricane Irma provided us with our second “hurrication” in a twelve month period, and I personally feel that traveling with all of your “crucial” possessions and your cat is overrated.  Needless to say, while we were blown away by the generosity and kindnesses of friends and strangers during evacuation, we are really glad to be home.  Last October, hurricane Matthew rolled on by, washing out a road and causing generally minimal damage. In 2011, Irene came pretty close and threw up a big surge which channeled past the dune line. This video shows the tide inundating Osprey Walk that year.  Every time we have a flood event, like the one in 2015, I come away with more appreciation for the resilience of our natural ecosystem, and the value of the original design and engineering plan, which allows the roads to move water along and away from homesites.

Irma, however, stands out as one of our more significant storms from a road perspective. Due to the extreme tidal surge from a hurricane hundreds of miles away, and strong northeast winds, lots of water was pushed into the marshes and waterways.  We were lucky in this hurricane that we didn’t get strong winds, but the water was impressive.  The incredible tides in the waterway pushed water way higher than usual, sending it over Old House Lane and into the impoundment. We set up a camera before we left to see if we could watch the marsh near Chapel Pond.  At first it looked like this:irma storm surge

Within an hour, it looked like this:

If you look to the right, you’ll see the water just pouring in from Old House Lane:

And by Wednesday morning (mostly) things are back to normal:

We got back to the area on Tuesday evening.  Both ferries, which had been put into storage per our island protocol in a storm, were still there, so the island ran the Parker for a few days.  By the time we got here, the staff had already done an assessment and created a recovery plan.  With no power to the utility, we needed to wait until running water returned to live here, but those of us with school kids who had been expecting a few more days off had to come get some necessary items for school.  We met the Parker at the ferry dock: while there was water in the parking lot, it was less than there was when we got back from Matthew.

That wasn’t the case on Monday: Van Kinnett sent these photos to Claudia DeMayo:

As you can see, the tide was impressive!  The staff was on hand and cheerful when we arrived.  It was clear that they’d been working all day.

the ride along the waterway showed some damage to the IOP and Goat Island docks:

Once on the island, Joe and island manager David Dew were available for transportation to homes.  As you can see, the road was still covered in water:

The impoundment was still high: the camera we set there had shorted out in the rain and tripped the gfi switch; this was a full 24 hours after the highest part of the surge.

We grabbed our stuff and headed for the ferry back.

Roads were still impassable by golf cart, so we’ve gotten rides from all of the island’s “high rise” vehicles.

On my ride over on Wednesday, the ferry captain Matt and deckhand Mike stopped to retrieve a stray floating dock and tie it off so it wasn’t a navigational hazard.

By Wednesday mid-day, the smaller ferry, the Dewees Breeze was back in service. And the crew took all of the road materials we had on hand and transformed Old House Lane into a road from a river:

And worked on repairs to Dewees Inlet drive.

All in all, we’re so grateful for the staff who’ve kept working (even in today’s absurd 2″ rainstorm that fell in the space of about 45 minutes) to get us back up and running; power on, water and wastewater systems a go, and roads improving by the hour.  Tomorrow and Saturday we are working on some community cleanup projects: sign up here if you want to help.

More photos soon!