Power was restored yesterday to most of the 5,000 residents of Hatteras Island on North Carolina's Outer Banks as tourists continued to brave freezing temperatures while waiting in line for ferries.
"It's been quite an experience," said Helen Barnes, 68, of Norfolk, Va. "It's the first time we've ever gone through soup lines."
Barnes and her six sisters, who have spent a week-long vacation on Hatteras Island every October for 15 years, were scheduled to leave Friday.
But early that morning, a dredge was dragged from its moorings across the Oregon Inlet and slammed into the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, severing the only road linking Hatteras to the mainland.
Barnes had taken the one-mile ferry trip from Hatteras Sunday and waited in line at Ocracoke Island for six hours before giving up yesterday.
"We had no electricity, no heat, no food," she said. "We've been sleeping in the same clothes for four nights. It was pretty disgusting. We just decided to get to a hotel and take nice hot showers."
Other island visitors have been put up at shelters, with food and blankets shipped in and volunteered by residents and restaurants.
Service linking Hatteras and Ocracoke to mainland ferry slips in Swan Quarter 30 miles away and Cedar Island 20 miles away is running 24 hours a day until all the tourists and residents wanting to leave the island can do so, said Joe Myers, director of the Division of Emergency Management.
Power was restored to Ocracoke's 3,000 residents Saturday morning via an emergency power station. Hatteras's electrical needs are being supplied by six temporary diesel-powered generators, Myers said.
"Full, temporary power" was restored yesterday afternoon in the Hatteras villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton and Frisco, said Gwen White, Dare County spokeswoman.
At least 300 vehicles queued up at the Ocracoke ferry slip yesterday, but weary travelers maintained their composure.
Assessments of the 2 1/2-mile Bonner Bridge, connecting the northern end of Hatteras to Bodie Island, began Sunday after the dredge was moved Saturday afternoon, said Bill Marley, highway administrator with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Contractors hope to begin clearing bridge debris from the Oregon Inlet by Wednesday, he said, adding that the job should take at least five working days.
Restoring one lane of the two-lane bridge should take 45 days if weather conditions remain mild, 90 days at the longest, Marley said.
Replacing the span is expected to cost at least $1 million, plus a minimum of $1.5 million to construct temporary ferry slips on Hatteras and Bodie islands and operate five more ferries across Oregon Inlet, he said.
The state and the Army Corps of Engineers, who had contracted the dredge, are investigating what agency should be held responsible for the incident.