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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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Blame it on Irene

Blame it on Irene

Like a hellcat with its tail on fire, Irene ripped across the Outer Banks, making landfall at Cape Lookout, unleashing a fury only Mother Nature could extoll. Hurricane winds forced the water from Pamlico Sound up its feeder rivers, returning with a torrent that flooded the Hatteras Island villages of Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo. The angry Atlantic Ocean breached the barrier island in three places, including a 200-foot swath of Hwy.12 severed at Pea Island, just north of the flood area, isolating Hatteras Island from the Outer Banks.

As dumb luck would have it, our beloved beach cottage located on the highest point of the island in Salvo fared well, high and dry on stilts 14 feet above sea level, protected from the ocean by massive double dunes. Following a busy rental season and Hurricane Irene, we were anxious to inspect and enjoy the cottage. Trouble was, without highway access, we couldn’t get there. 

One evening our neighbor Al called with an update.

 “Emergency ferry service from Oregon Inlet across Pamlico Sound to Rodanthe takes two hours to cross. Supply trucks and construction vehicles get top priority; the waiting line is hours long. Only residents and owners allowed.” 

Was it worth the trip from Pennsylvania?

“Don’t even think about coming unless you want a transfusion.” Al warned about insatiable swarms of mosquitoes ‘the size of turkey vultures’ attacking people and pets, blood-sucking kamikazes, biting through layers of clothing. 

Heeding his advice, we set our sights on Myrtle Beach, with a stopover in Wilmington to visit an old army girlfriend. For years, her recommendation that we retire in Wilmington had fallen on deaf ears. Wilmington was not even on our radar screen. 

Living in a beach community was intriguing, the low country architecture I saw online beguiling. I made an afternoon appointment to house hunt.

“You’re wasting your time.” My husband told the realtor. “No way are we moving here.” He described scores of houses we’d seen the last five years in Richmond, Charlottesville, and Raleigh, all within striking distance of our children, with good airports and medical. Tired of other people’s cast-offs, our standards were high, expectations low.

“You know what you want; you aren’t finding it. Consider building!” the realtor suggested two days later. “Tomorrow, enroute to Myrtle Beach, check out Brunswick Forest. I’ll make an appointment.”

After meeting David at the Welcome Center for a general lay of the land, he commenced the tour. First stop, the Fitness and Wellness Center. Though we had seen grander facilities elsewhere, we were surprised at the activity level. People were actually using the gym and tennis courts, swimming in the pools, playing cards. There was life here! We were off to a good start. 

We visited numerous neighborhoods, distinctly southern with lush seagrass plantings, towering loblolly pines, magnificent magnolias and colorful crepe myrtles. Planned green space, left natural and undisturbed, along with parks and walkways, were appealing. A myriad of housing options offered designs for every budget, yet nothing in particular jumped out. 

“Last but not least, this is Shelmore.” David pulled into a parking lot alongside a path-lined lake. “It’s more cottage style. Here’s the model.” 

My foot was barely across the threshold of the front door when I exclaimed, “I love this! Look how light and bright and open it is!” 

Sunlight, streaming through a wall of windows, flooded the great room, casually staged with Pottery Barn couches and chairs. Gleaming hardwood floors ran throughout. We wandered about the craftsman-style house, appreciating the generous bedrooms and closets, imagining our own design spins. Its detached, two-story garage, perfect for a workshop, sealed the deal. Before noon we put a hold on a lakefront lot, promising to return after vacation. 

Our Myrtle Beach week flew by, consumed with weighing pros and cons of Brunswick Forest and Wilmington, conferring with our kids and financial advisor,

Over the last eight years here we’ve witnessed explosive growth in Brunswick Forest and weathered several hurricanes. Hatteras Island has repaired its breaches and we’ve sold the beach house. Our kids are chasing their own dreams. As with children and barrier islands, life is always shifting. What brought us here? We blame it on Irene.

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