OKI leaders: Isaias leaves dunes ‘flattened’, at least $10 million in damage

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OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) — As the clean up from Isaias continues, some Brunswick County beach towns are facing millions of dollars in damage.

On Monday morning, state representatives heard from local leaders about the challenges they’re facing now.

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Oak Island is one of the town that took the brunt of Isaias. Between the pandemic and now storm damage, town leaders say they’ll take all the help they can get.

“The dunes are flat,” Town Manager David Kelly said. “That took the biggest hit. Everything that you looked at there today. All the sand is now in the streets or first and second row homes.”

Kelly says all the items strewn around E. Beach Drive including mattresses, debris, siding from homes, furniture were underwater. He says the storm surge reached 8.5 to 9.5 feet.

“I was here in 1999 when Floyd came through, and it looked about like this,” North Carolina House Representative Frank Iler said. “There was two feet of sand in this street.”

Several state representatives from around the Cape Fear and North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore toured Oak Island to get a look at the damage firsthand.

“The state has $1.2 billion dollars roughly in what’s called ‘the rainy day fund,'” Moore said. “That’s the savings reserve. We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to maintain that because even with all the others pressures we’ve had from COVID-19, you name it.”

For and beach town like Oak Island, Kelly says Isaias packed yet another punch on top of the pandemic.

“With the COVID, we had already taken sort of a hit on accommodation taxes and those kinds of things, and the realtors, restaurants and the trickle down effect had already been hit,” Kelly said. “Now with this storm again, we’ve got another layer on top of that.”

Between flooding, damage to the dunes and house fires, Kelly says they’re looking to get as much funding as possible from FEMA, the state government and the federal government.

“On the residential side, we’re looking at probably around $10 million,” Kelly said. “The sand side, we’re still looking at those numbers we need to get to the county.”

State Representative Holly Grange acknowledged the importance of rebuilding the dunes quickly. She says renourishment has helped save infrastructure in New Hanover County, as well as the many sea turtle nests scattered along the coast.

“It is important that we get this sand put back in place, because as the Speaker said, our hurricane season is not over,” Grange said.

Since it’s the middle of nesting season, Kelly says they’re working with local organizations to repair the dunes to protect the nests from any further damage.

In the meantime, Kelly says Crews are working to restore utilities to the island. He says crews have had to dig utilities out from underneath the mounds of sand that got pushed up on the streets.

The State of Emergency is still in place, along with a mandatory evacuation for non-residents on part of the island. Kelly says they’re hoping to get utilities restored to most of the island by Monday night.

“They say there’s money out there, so hopefully we will be able to get some,” Kelly said.

During his visit Monday, Moore said the funding for disaster relief has already been allocated to different agencies for the rest of 2020. He says there may be additional funding needed in the second half of the fiscal year depending on if there are additional major storms or disasters in the next few months.