Many vacationers had already left Outer Banks communities, and locals were scrambling to pack up their belongings as the wind started to pick up Thursday afternoon. Billy’s Seafood, a mom-and-pop store known for its fresh fish, soft-shell crabs and tuna salad, was closing up shop after moving its supplies several feet off the floor.
“We were just getting ready to leave,” Judy Beasley, who owns the store with her family, said when reached by telephone Thursday afternoon.
Hurricanes are deeply interwoven with the history of the Carolinas. Massive storms complicated the efforts to establish the first permanent English colony in the Americas at Roanoke Island, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, in the 1580s. The settlement was later abandoned for reasons that remain a mystery.
In South Carolina, the devastation of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 still lingers as a life-defining trauma for many coastal residents. At the time it was the costliest hurricane in the United States, causing roughly $7 billion in damage. It was also a pivotal moment for the city of Charleston, knocking down or badly damaging numerous buildings. The damage was an opportunity for thoughtful urban revitalization spearheaded by Joseph P. Riley Jr., the mayor at the time, and led to Charleston’s modern-day renaissance as a tourist-saturated coastal jewel.
Mr. Kornack, the oysterman, came to the Carolinas in 1994, but his wife’s relatives, whose roots in McClellanville date to the 19th century, carry the trauma of Hugo. On Thursday, they had their valuables off of the first floor, the storm shutters closed, the windows boarded. He was worried that the storm’s western flank might arrive with the afternoon high tide, flooding everything.
“We’re right on the creek, and when the surge hits you, you won’t know it until the water starts rising,” he said. “It might go from no water to ‘The water’s at your front door.’”