Topsail Island residents return to find damage, but no catastrophe

September 20, 2018

Residents of Topsail Beach, Surf City and North Topsail Beach were allowed back onto the barrier island Thursday for the first time since it was battered by Hurricane Florence a week ago.

Crews have spent several days clearing sand and debris from roads on Topsail Island and restoring power to area homes and businesses.

Residents were allowed on the island at 7 a.m., and many found damage to roofs, siding ripped off and decks torn apart.

“The whole side of the house, the shingles are completely gone,” Topsail Beach resident James Kent said. ”[It’s] just a little more damage than we expected.”

Sandy Edwards found a lot more than he expected after checking out satellite photos of hurricane damage online and seeing only a few shingles missing from his Topsail Beach home.

“We really thought we were going to be OK,” Edwards said. “When I opened the door and saw insulation on the stairs, I knew it was a different story.”

Rain caved in the ceiling of his home, dumping soggy insulation over everything.

“We unboarded the house, started opening it up, and we’re bringing in trash cans and things to dispose of the wet materials tomorrow, and we start the recovery process,” Edwards said.

Tom Dorsett said he was pleasantly surprised not to find beach houses tossed into streets in the town, as he did after Hurricane Fran in 1996.

“It’s kind of a different world. There’s a lot of damage, but it’s not catastrophic damage,” Dorsett said. “That’s what we look for when we own places here – leave me something to build with.”

Surf City homeowner Larry Rice was also part of the a crew brought in on Sunday and spent the week clearing sand and debris so his neighbors could get back into their homes.

“You can’t let people over here when there are no services,” Rice said. “There was 4 feet of sand on the roads, on the oceanfront roads. The dunes are gone up there.”

Mounds of sand line the streets for miles.

Shari Gainey spent the day drying out the home on North Topsail Beach that her grandfather built in 1967.

The house has weathered many storms over five decades, and Gainey said she feels lucky that Florence didn’t cause more damage.

″[There’s] missing dunes and shingles and debris everywhere,” she said, “but the roads were visible, unlike Fran. You couldn’t see the roads then.”

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