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‘Ocracoke got really lucky,’ Jeopardy winner says after Hurricane Florence

Oceanana Pier at Atlantic Beach suffers damage from Florence

The Oceanana Pier in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, suffered damage from Hurricane Florence's strong winds. Here's a look at the pier as of Saturday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2018.
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The Oceanana Pier in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, suffered damage from Hurricane Florence's strong winds. Here's a look at the pier as of Saturday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2018.

Lady Luck looked favorably on a former “Jeopardy” winner this weekend when Hurricane Florence spared his Ocracoke home.

“Ocracoke got really lucky,” said Charles Temple, a high school English teacher at Ocracoke School and 2011 “Jeopardy” winner.

Hurricane Florence brought heavy rains and winds that roared ashore at just under 75 mph, but unlike surrounding coastal communities, Ocracoke Island suffered only a few downed trees – mostly cedars – and short-term power outages.

“The rain was considerably worse [in July] than it’s been in Florence,” Temple said. “It doesn’t pile up here like it does in other places.”

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Charles Temple Hyde County Schools

Temple’s claim to fame is being the first teacher to win the “Jeopardy! Teach ers Tournament” in 2011. He defeated 14 other teachers from across the country to earn $100,000 and a spot in the 2011 “Jeopardy” Tournament of Champi ons. He lost that tournament to a writer from Seattle.

“You know when Drake University makes it to the NCAA and you see them cheering and jumping, and they get Kentucky in the first round? I got Kentucky in the first round,” he said.

Temple only fled Ocracoke in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd made landfall as a Category 2 storm near Wilmington. The 23-year resident said he, his fiancee Chrisi Gaskill, and their roommate did debate whether to leave this time, especially as the hurricane was headed toward them.

The 16-mile-long barrier island is accessible only by boat, so staying ensured they would be cut off for at least a few days.

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Waves crash over the road over washed by hurricane Florence in Ocracoke, NC., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Steve Helber AP Photo

But then the storm shifted, and while many of Ocracoke’s roughly 700 residents evacuated, Temple said they decided to ride it out just before the last ferry left Wednesday.

By then, the forecast was looking better, he said. The power flickered Thursday before going out, he said. It was restored by Friday afternoon. Limited ferry service was restored Sunday morning.

A once-healthy section of dunes in Avon, North Carolina, was wiped out as Hurricane Florence battered the eastern coast of the U.S. on Sept. 14, 2018.

Temple noted Ocracoke is powered by its own generator and has a water treatment plant. Plus, everybody who stays behind keeps track of their neighbors, he said.

“Ocracoke is better set up to deal with hurricanes than almost anywhere,” he said. “We’re exposed, but we anticipate being cut off.”

Still, he said, no one takes the decision to stay or go lightly.

“Everybody’s saying, oh, why would you stay? It’s a little bit more complicated decision than just is this going to be dangerous,” he said. “I think New Bern’s getting more water than anybody’s ever seen there. At least out here, we know what the stakes are.”

Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb

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