Forgotten Hatteras: 'My Life is Living Here on the Street'

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HATTERAS ISLAND, N.C. -- Hurricane Irene is long gone, but those living on North Carolina's Outer Banks are a long way from recovery.

The ferry, the only form of transportation for residents to the mainland, has been shut down for at least three days.

Residents are thankful that CBN's Operation Blessing International is already on the island helping them rebuild.

Jody Herrington-Gettys, director of U.S. Disaster Relief for Operation Blessing, spoke to CBN News about the current conditions in Hatteras, Friday evening. Click play for more, following this report.

Blue the 'Joyologist'

After a 70-minute boat ride, CBN News arrived on Hatteras Island, accompanied by Operation Blessing President Bill Horan, his wife, and one of the newest members on staff - Blue, a doberman pinscher.

Horan said the dog, raised by CBN Founder Dr. Pat Robertson, is an ambassador of goodwill.

"He is our staff "joyologist," a certified "joyologist," guaranteed to make people feel better," Horan said.

Those who live in the area definitely need cheering up. Piles of debris, flood-damaged furniture, and carpet still line the streets.

Residents who were born and raised on Hatteras Island say Hurricane Irene was historic.

"This is by far the worst," Hatteras resident David Midgett told CBN News. In several of the storms, it was about waist-deep, and in this one it was up almost past my nose.

The storm surge flooded the island, damaged homes, and chased away the top money maker - tourism.
    
Ice cream shop owner Carol Elmstrom said the hurricane took away seven weeks of income. Both the shop and her home took a beating.
 
"It's heartbreaking," she said. "That's my life. My 27 years living here is out on the street."

 

"And I'm not going to cry," she resolved. "I'm over it. I'm over crying."

A Way out of No Way    

Construction crews are working to repair the only road to the island. Irene washed it away, making it extremely difficult for relief organizations and supplies to get here.       

The only way to get to Hatteras Island now is by helicopter or boat. But that didn't stop Operation Blessing, who is leasing a sport fishing boat to help transport volunteers and supplies from the mainland.
     
"These folks were suffering down here," Horan told CBN News.

"They were overlooked. They were being under-served, and we want to be there to kind of fill that gap," he said.

Restoring Hope
     
Blue isn't the only one to lift the spirits of hurricane victims.
    
Operation Blessing's human volunteers are working hard to clean up homes, removing water-logged walls and furniture and sanitizing to kill and prevent mold.
    
They're also partnering with church members and rescue workers on the island.
 
"You come up to people, and they have this look on their face. It's the look of 'we've lost it,'" Pastor Russell Howard said. "And we've been able to stay there with some of these folks until that look leaves."
 
"What Operation Blessing does is of course, we provide tangible resources, but we provide hope -- hope in the future, hope that God loves them, and hope that they can live again," explained Jody Herrington-Gettys, director of U.S. Disaster Relief for the organization.

Elmstrom, overwhelmed, told the workers "You people have been unbelievably amazing, amazing."

Find out how you can help Operation Blessing International's disaster relief programs around the world and here at home.

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Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.