A waterspout spun out by one of the bands of Hurricane Dorian came ashore at Emerald Isle on Thursday morning, striking an RV park and a camper storage lot.
Town Manager Matt Zapp said officials are still assessing the situation but that he was not aware of any injuries. He said there were people in at least one of the campers in the Boardwalk RV Park when the waterspout hit.
“They were packing up, they were trying to get out,” Zapp said.
Ronnie Watson is owner of the nearby Holiday Trav-L-Park, a separate campground off of Coast Guard Road where the campers were stored. He was in the campground’s office when he heard screams, he said.
“My grandson and daughter were screaming, ‘Tornado! Tornado!’” Watson said. “I looked up and saw it coming. So we ran into the bathroom. It sounded like a locomotive.”
Watson said they stayed in the bathroom for 5 to 6 minutes, and then it was over.
The waterspout formed and came ashore at 9 a.m., near the Bogue Inlet Pier, officials said. The pier, the only remaining one on Bogue Banks, did not appear to be damaged.
Emerald Isle Mayor Eddie Barber has lived on the island for about 25 years, he said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “And I’m afraid this is just the beginning.”
The storm damaged 40 to 50 trailers in the storage lot, Watson said. He was concerned that the debris would now become airborne missiles that could cause damage all over the area as winds pick up with Dorian’s approach.
Pieces of some of the campers lay strewn about, including parts of awnings, a window and a random chair cushion. The wind also took out a freestanding ice dispenser and a roadside stand where locals and tourists buy fresh fish and shrimp by the pound in season.
Paul Musco, who owns the Salty Pirate Water Park, said he would have been at his property Thursday morning when the storm hit. But as he drove toward the park, he decided to return to Morehead City to get food before everything closed in preparation for the storm.
The delay kept him from being outside right in the path of the waterspout.
The park did not fare as well.
“Oh God, it’s totally destroyed,” he said.
The water slide, a tall swoop of concrete, looked OK. But buildings on the property were torn apart.
Employees and owners of the various properties hit by the waterspout began cleanup immediately, picking up what they could during breaks in the weather. Throughout the morning, it was alternately rainy and sunny.
The high winds left an area of Emerald Isle without power, but electric company crews were on the scene quickly working to make repairs.
The National Weather Service had issued a tornado watch for the area starting Thursday morning and lasting through the day, so people were on alert. And the Town of Emerald Isle had issued a mandatory evacuation order, telling people to be off the island by the time the N.C. Highway Patrol closes the bridges to the island around 7 p.m. Thursday.
”But it takes time for people to get their affairs in order and get things together to leave,” Zapp said. “We understand that.”
Watson had planned to ride out the storm on the island. But after his experience with the waterspout, “I’m not staying out here anymore,” he said. “I’m getting out.”