Irene endures, but so do we

Published 12:07 am Thursday, December 29, 2011

Prior to Aug. 27, Hurricane Floyd — which made landfall Sept. 16, 1999 — was the benchmark storm by which most eastern North Carolina hurricanes were measured.

But from Aug. 27 on, Hurricane Irene will be the storm that many, if not most, Beaufort County residents will invoke as they seek to measure the new benchmark against tempests yet to come.

Last week, county officials reported that 195 Beaufort County homes remained so storm-damaged they were considered uninhabitable. This news arrived nearly four months after Irene hammered eastern North Carolina, the eye passing just east of the mouth of the Pamlico River.

Also as of last week, 51 mobile, temporary housing units, sited by Federal Emergency Management Agency contractors, were still set up in the county.

These figures provide some small, ongoing measure of the suffering that Irene brought — the hundreds of homes damaged by wind, by tide and by rain-induced flooding, the destruction of a number of waterfront structures.

But amid this tangible evidence of the storm’s deeds was an intangible effect: the spirit of unity, charity and cooperation that arose during, and in the days following, the hurricane.

This spirit, manifest in neighbors helping neighbors, symbolized the better parts of Beaufort County, that neighborly quality that sets our community apart.

Beaufort County lost a lot to Irene’s ravages — jobs, homes, and possessions.

Yet, after the storm, this county exhibited the same willingness to help others recover from the disaster that it showed in the years after Floyd. It is this determination that guides our county through the continuing recovery from Irene.

It is this spirit that makes us proud to live here, and it is this spirit that will bring us back from the pain of our worst hurricane in recent memory.