In Kitty Hawk, Irene caused the flood of a lifetime

By on September 8, 2011

Buck Beacham adds to the pile of first-floor items. (Voice)

Where pavement meets dirt past the end of West Kitty Hawk Road, Buck Beacham and his two sons were almost finished piling up furniture and other debris from the first floor of their 90-year-old house.

It was Wednesday, 10 days after the storm, and inside the house, traces of mud still caked the kitchen floor. In a front room, a big bulge ran along the floorboards.

Glenn Beacham pointed out the waterline about 18 inches up the walls of the house, which is another 2 or 3 feet off the ground.

Since the family bought the house in 1933, they have seen flooding, but none as bad as the sound surge from Hurricane Irene. The refrigerator was set afloat and the flood water toppled furniture throughout the first floor.

Water rushing almost a quarter of a mile from the Albemarle Sound lifted the house then settled it back down, separating the steps from the front porch.

Glenn Beacham notes the water line.

Built in 1920, the house was one of at least 80 in Kitty Hawk where water ran into living areas on Aug. 27. Many of the older homes had never flooded before.

“While the beach community fared favorably during Hurricane Irene, our village community received damage unknown to residents for 90-plus years,” Mayor Pro Tem Gary Perry said in a report Tuesday to the Town Council on post-storm damage.

Town officials made contact with about 300 owners in a survey of 550 properties in neighborhoods affected by the flooding, Perry said.

Of those, 62 said they had no flood insurance. Another 177 reported that they did. Two residents needed help finding someplace to stay, Perry said.

Buck Beacham's kitchen.

Many more properties reported water damage in lower level storage areas. On Wednesday, streets were lined with soggy insulation, ruined furniture and bedding, tree limbs and marsh grass, all piled up to be hauled off.

Kitty Hawk Village is one of the oldest communities on the Outer Banks, and many homes have been handed down through generations. It is a mixture of ridges and lowland laced with creeks and inlets along Kitty Hawk Bay and the Albemarle Sound.

Along with Manteo, Colington and Bay Drive in Kill Devil Hills, west Kitty Hawk saw some of the worst damage from the storm on the northern Outer Banks. Irene pushed water out of the sounds and away from the barrier islands, then sent it rushing back as it passed and the wind shifted.

These days, Buck Beacham, 83, spends his time between Kitty Hawk and Boston, where his sons live. No one was in the house during the storm.

Looking at the pile of furniture, Wayne Beacham said his mother, if she was still living, would have been devastated. He imagined her trying to salvage what she could with polish.

The flooding, he said, was “horrific.”

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