Residents in swamped Stumpy Point suffer alone

Staff WriterAugust 30, 2011 

— Stumpy Point, the embarkation point for the emergency ferry to Hatteras Island, is an easily overlooked sliver of sand and mud that snakes into the Pamlico Sound just west of the Outer Banks.

And the 50 or so families who made a quiet life there are mostly pleased to be ignored.

Until now.

Their quiet haven was drowned by Irene. What didn't float away is waterlogged. And, unlike the water in most low-lying coastal communities, the floods here have stayed. Lawns are now lakes, forcing some residents to canoe between their mailbox and front porch.

"Never in a million years did we see this coming," said Howard Prince, as he shoveled mud out of his downstairs utility room.

As residents of Stumpy Point paddle and wring their way out of Irene's mess, no one comes to see about them. No Red Cross volunteers, church group Samaritans or county emergency officials.

They see the helpers board a nearby ferry bound for Hatteras Village. Stumpy Point plays host to a state ferry employed during emergencies to reach the southern Outer Banks, fragmented by the hurricane. Late Sunday and through Monday, emergency crews, medical personnel and aid workers boarded the ferry a half-mile away, bound for Hatteras Island.

For now, Stumpy Point is the gateway - and the only viable access point - to Hatteras Island, where residents have been cut off from the world. Irene washed away large swaths of N.C. 12, which connects the northern Outer Banks to the more southern barrier islands.

On Monday, Stumpy Point native John Jones fished bits of clothing for his children out of the waist-deep puddles in his front yard.

"I keep waiting for the Red Cross, for somebody to show up who knows what to do here," said Jones, a carpenter.

His house was pulled off its foundation and tipped over Saturday. He watched it happen from a nearby boat, where he and other volunteer firefighters raced up and down Bayview Drive to pull residents from their homes during the worst of the surge.

"We like to be left alone usually and take care of our own, but we could use some help now," Jones said.

Stumpy Point is not so much a town as a road that dead-ends in a cul-de-sac perched on the bay. It has two churches, a post office, a trading post for fishermen and a cemetery.

Vacationers and seasonal residents are few here. Crab pots are stacked high in many yards, and mobile homes abound. Descendants of Stumpy Point's settlers still live in 75-year-old homesteads.

Stumpy Point's identity is lost now.

On Monday, media crews rushed past the entrance of Bayview Drive, where nearly all Stumpy Point residents live. They headed straight to an asphalt parking lot nearby and filmed the ferry drifting away across the sound. The state ferry service had hauled five loads of volunteers and aid workers to Hatteras Village by early afternoon Monday.

Stumpy Point residents are well-accustomed to hosting relief work on the southern barrier islands. Earlier this summer, as wildfires raged across the sound, firefighters slept by night in their tiny community center on Bayview Drive. Neighbors took turns helping feed them.

On Monday, Stumpy Point residents fended for themselves as well as they could, as help drifted across the sound.

mandy.locke@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8927

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