I am going to write this out of sequence because of questions and comments I have been asked and have seen posted.

When can we return for good to actually mitigate any issues our homes may have??

There is still a State of Emergency on BHI. The reason? The fragility of the infrastructure repairs that have been made and are ongoing. Each day new surprises, both welcome and unwelcome, occur. Today it was a $30,000 part for the sewer system to keep it functioning. The part was ordered this afternoon once it was determined that other alternatives would not work. The temporary fix is just that. If this alternative stops working, and it might because it is under capacity, the entire sewer system will be shut down.

The infrastructure is also interconnected. I was told that one of the major connectors for the power grid, running from Bay Tree Trail to Timbercreek, is severely damaged. This part will cost Duke Energy $1 million, not including installation. Such parts are not off-the- shelf items. Getting the part, getting it to BHI and getting it installed must get done. So does getting it running. But “control” of that process lies with others. Meanwhile, if the interim “fix” fails, Timber Creek, Bay Tree Trail and possibly much of the entire island will again be without power. Without this key part, the sewer system will also shut down.

These are not “excuses.” These are very real, very serious and very dangerous problems. Working in flooded areas with electricity is not something anyone except specialized and skilled individuals should do. Without answers to when these systems will be fixed, how can a date be provided? It is for this reason that the State of Emergency continues.

Island wynds are narrowed by the vegetative debris that has been shoved to either side of the road. There are still tree limbs that looked ok on the first pass and the second, but now that things are drying out, are gradually falling down.
Standing water is prevalent all over BHI. Pumps and hoses are everywhere. They will be damaged by traffic, even carts driving over them. Consequently, carts use will not be allowed this weekend.

While we were being driven around as much of BHI as we could get to this morning, the Public Safety officer’s radio was buzzing constantly with calls. One was for a “hanger” – an overhanging tree limb at West by Captain Charlie’s Court. The closest person with a chain saw was sought. Several times we had to back up over long stretches, because flood waters were still too deep for the SUV to safely traverse. If large trucks can’t navigate some of these waters, assuredly neither golf carts nor trams can either.

Many, I think, believe that they can be dropped off at the ferry and walk to their homes. I live close to the marina and almost always walk or ride my bike to the ferry. As much as I treasure island wildlife, I am frankly not up to an encounter with an alligator or snake. (In fact, today a dead squirrel ended up in one of the pumps working near Kinnakeet.) Also, as these utility trucks pass by, there is no shoulder to walk on. And the standing water is putrid and smells VERY BAD. We had to drive with the windows up to avoid the stench in many places.

What’s happening Monday, October 1st?

Businesses and contractors will not be on island on Saturday and Sunday. Utility work will continue. The Public Safety staff will be available almost exclusively for homeowners, in case, God forbid, someone gets hurt. Remember, this is an assessment visit, of short duration, allowing time to take pictures, clean out refrigerators and freezers and go back to the marina. It will NOT be a proverbial day at the beach!

After your visits, management should have an idea of the scope of Florence’s impact to the island’s housing inventory. This will affect barge schedules for some time to come, contractors’ access, waste disposal of construction debris, white goods (refrigerators) etc., and honestly, whether and when the island can be open for business as usual. The Council plans to meet in either emergency or special session on Monday afternoon to assemble all the information to decide next steps.

There are still a lot of decisions to be made based on far too many unknowns. Flood waters are down, but not gone everywhere. Getting huge volumes of water out of the Kinnakeet area is one of them. Although all major roads have been cleared of trees and branches, some of the smaller roads still need attention.

I am hoping that finally on Monday Council and staff will have answers to questions about delivery and installation of the parts needed to stabilize our electrical grid. Knowledge of the extent of damage to homes will be known. With this data, it is hoped a decision will be made about re-opening BHI in the days to come.

I read the Club Board’s letter today about the condition of the golf course. The message I took away was it will be weeks, if not months, before things get more normal. I hope that gave you an indication of the magnitude of Florence’s wrath.

What’s happening this weekend?

Homeowners will finally get a chance to examine and asses their homes for hurricane damage, both inside and outside your home. Other opportunities will be provided, too. We will let you know as soon as humanly possible for those who are unable to come this weekend.

There will be two ferries at each time slot, allowing for a total of 900 people to travel to BHI tomorrow to check homes. The number of people who have signed up for re-entry as of noon today is 1800. Betsi Stephen, Elizabeth Kinney and I will do our very best to welcome you with grace, get you signed up for one of the six ferris (two per hour) heading to BHI for the next two days.

I hope you’ve seen the list of do’s and don’ts. It will be hot, so please bring bottled water. (Water on island MUST be boiled until further notice.) The ferries and parking will be free for these assessment visits. If you’ve been told your house may have flood, power or sewer issues, be sure to wear boots or waders. Bring bug spray! Spawn of Florence have been incubating in all the flood waters. Consider bringing baby wipes for use wiping your hands regularly. With potentially rotten food (pulleeeeze, let mine be refrozen!!!), nasty flood waters that you shouldn’t touch with your skin, and tap water that needs to be boiled, wipes might provide a good solution for keeping fresh and clean!

Remember that you should carefully consider what to bring with you and what to bring back. Yo may bring only two bags each, and you must be able to hand carry them. There will be NO luggage service this weekend. With many roads having standing waters through which the trams can not drive, secondary roads still strewn with limbs and small trees, trams may not be able to take you directly to your house. So be prepared to hike from one of the major wynds if necessary.

I think that covers it all. I need to get this posted so you have a chance to read it before you come.

We all look forward to putting names and faces with the comments and messages we have shared these past two weeks!

Safe travels!!!