The finger of National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read points to the landfall of Hurricane Irene’s eye at Cape Lookout, N.C.
Some people can sharply recall the characteristic train sound of a tornado creating havoc – there one minute and gone the next. Ty Smoyer remembers well the sound of an all-day roaring session. He still hears it in his head because on Aug. 27, Smoyer sat in his boarded up and airtight house in New Bern, N.C. and suffered through the destructive winds of Hurricane Irene.
“It’s different from a tornado,” the 31-year old former Martin resident explained. “It lasts all day. You can’t just hunker down in a shower. You’ve got to board up your windows and wait it out. It’s like a day-long tornado.” Smoyer lived almost his entire life in Martin with his mom, Laurie, and four siblings, until last summer when he decided to move to New Bern with his girlfriend, a broadcast meteorologist who took a job at a local television station.
Smoyer had been working for Pet Sense in Union City and is now working at a store in New Bern in management. They were prepared to make a life in the artistic and picturesque coastal community of New Bern, a town approximately the size of Dyersburg, and they were also willing to face the fact that they might one day brave the winds of a hurricane. When Smoyer heard the news of Irene’s imminent arrival and the projected 15 to 20 inches of rain that would come with it, he set to work making the house ready. Protecting the windows was first priority and that was followed with stocking up on food provisions, as the electricity was sure to go out. With everything in place, the hurricane approached the town Friday afternoon, but the eye wall, the worst part of the hurricane, passed through the area early Saturday morning. New Bern, located just 30 minutes from the coast, was slammed almost immediately.
“The wind and rain really picked up Saturday morning and the worst part started around 7:30. My girlfriend had to go to work Friday night and Saturday morning, but I didn’t and most of the businesses around the area had closed due to the hurricane’s coming through. “I drove my girlfriend back and forth to work and went through two to three feet of water each time. The rain was torrential. The wind was strong. It was rough. Powerful. It was a nerve-wracking experience,” Smoyer recalled.
The damage was widespread and immediate. Millions of people in the coastal North Carolina area lost power Friday and didn’t get it back until Tuesday. Naturally, the loss of power resulted in the loss of air conditioning. As of Thursday, damage estimates for North Carolina were approaching $200 million and rising and seven coastal counties, including Craven where New Bern is located, were approved for federal assistance. Craven County and 19 other counties were also approved for public assistance for debris removal and infrastructure repairs. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has already started picking up storm-related debris along state-maintained roads in several counties including Craven.
“In addition to the electrical outages, there were trees falling on homes. Many people lost everything. There were some communities who lost everything,” Smoyer remarked. “Some people stayed and some people left. There were about equal amounts. Some fared like I did and some lost it all.” On his way home from work Thursday, Smoyer noticed the beginnings of relief efforts taking place as several groups were setting up and preparing to help clean up. Choosing to conserve his cell phone battery during the storm as he knew electricity would be lost, Smoyer is now reaching out to friends and family members through Facebook as he gives updates from his area and posts information on how to help. As Smoyer has taken both the good and bad of living in a coastal community, he now has a story and advice to share with others on how he was battle tested with a hurricane and weathered the storm.