Belhaven to Oriental, NC: Hit Hard by Hurricane Irene but on the Rebound

Photos and story by Michelle Lotker

Hurricane Irene made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on August 27th. Two days later, Dr. Linwood Pendleton, of Duke University's Nicholas Institute, embarked north on the Intracoastal from Beaufort, NC on his 38–foot trawler. Pendleton, along with those on a few other boats he encountered, was among the first to witness the havoc Hurricane Irene wreaked on the waterway. "Channel markers were missing; the water was full of doors, trees, telephone poles, and even fish cleaning stations," he said.

The property around the River Forest Marina Manor house is back to normal after severe flooding during Hurricane Irene (Photo on the left taken during the storm by owner and TowBoatUS Captain Axston Smith).

Two weeks later, Belhaven, Washington and Oriental, North Carolina, are among the waterfronts still recovering from Irene. Flooding in the area pulled up dock pilings and inundated homes and businesses. Axson Smith, owner of River Forest Marina in Belhaven and a TowBoatUS captain, echoed what many in the area were saying, "This is the worst flooding we've ever had, and my family has been here since 1947."

In Washington, boats in Captain Sam's Boatyard were lifted off of their stands by storm surge. Yard foreman Tom May said "My house is nine feet above the ground and I still had water in my living room." McCotter's Marina, located across the street, was described as looking like "a bomb went off" with boats and docks twisted together by wind and waves.

Photo on the left (courtesy of Les Porter) was taken during Hurricane Irene at Belhaven Waterway Marina (Belhaven, NC). Floodwaters reached the top of the railing on the gazebo at the property submerging electrical boxes along the dock. The photograph on the right, taken two weeks later, shows Belhaven Waterway Marina back to normal and open for business.

Things are slowly returning to normal. In Oriental, John Deaton of Deaton Yacht Services, also a TowBoatUS captain, has seen the return of routine work. "This is the first day [since Irene] that we've had time to do any non-salvage work."

Les and Brenda Porter of Belhaven Waterway Marina didn't have power for 10 days after the storm due to flooding but they're back up and running. The town of Belhaven is also looking towards the future with the construction of a dock for transient boaters in progress. Boat traffic immediately after the storm was stifled by damage to the Great Bridge Lock and forest fires in the Dismal Swamp but both routes have reopened in time for the seasonal north to south migration of transient boaters on the waterway.

One of the boats in Captain Sam's Boatyard (Washington, NC) that ended up on its side after flooding lifted it off of its supports. Tom May of Captain Sam's said his house (located nearby) is built 9 feet off of the ground and he still had water in his living room during the storm.


McCotter's Marina in Washington, NC sustained heavy damage to both docks and boats caused by the wind and storm surge of Hurricane Irene. Two weeks after the storm heavy machinery is still being used to try to sort through the wreckage.

This wood bottomed boat docked in Whitaker Creek (Oriental, NC) was partially sunk due to damage sustained from contact with nearby pilings during Hurricane Irene.


Living on the waterfront, there's always the chance that a big storm will bring debris and other people's boats into your front yard. Matthew Deaton (Deaton Yacht Service & TowBoatUS) told me he did not remember seeing this boat around the area before. Its side window contained a sign that read "For Sale. Add Water."

A boat in Kershaw Creek (Oriental, NC) left resting on top of it's dock pilings by Hurricane Irene's flood waters. John Deaton, owner of Deaton Yacht Service and TowBoatUS Captain, told me that due to the number of boats driven up on land or onto docks/pilings by the storm, Monday (September 12th) is the first day that they have had time to do any non-salvage work in the two weeks since Hurricane Irene hit.

Personal belongings damaged by flooding during Hurricane Irene were still piled in yards in Belhaven, NC, two weeks after the storm.

Storm surge from Hurricane Irene floated several boats off of their jackstands in Captain Sam's Boatyard (Washington, NC).