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Homeowners want back in to Outer Banks

By Bryan Long

A car sits half-buried on Hatteras Island, in North Carolina's Outer Banks, the area hit hardest by Hurricane Isabel.
A car sits half-buried on Hatteras Island, in North Carolina's Outer Banks, the area hit hardest by Hurricane Isabel.

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MANTEO, North Carolina (CNN) -- John Grondahl spent the night in his car waiting for the travel ban to North Carolina's Outer Banks to lift at noon. He lives in Sarasota, Florida, and spent Friday heading north to reach his coastal rental property in Manteo, North Carolina.

About midnight Friday, Grondahl arrived at the bridge on Highway 64 that links the mainland to South Nags Head where he owns a six-bedroom house. But the connecting thoroughfare was closed and was not slated to open until noon.

Without electricity in the area, Grondahl had a choice of driving two hours to find a hotel and heading back in the morning or parking and sleeping.

"What are you going to do?" he asked. "I've been anxious since the storm came."

Saturday morning, his car was first in line, and about two dozen more were behind him.

Thousands evacuated ahead of Hurricane Isabel, which washed ashore Thursday. About 525,000 customers in North Carolina lost power during the storm.

Federal emergency officials said the worst damage, however, appeared to have been in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where freshly cut inlets sliced through the barrier islands and kept emergency workers from now-isolated Hatteras Island.

An aerial survey estimated the damage in Dare County -- which includes Hatteras and Pea Island, separating the ocean from Pamlico Sound -- at $545 million, with $313 million of that on Hatteras Island, county officials said.

Grondahl's home is one house back from the Atlantic Ocean. "It may be in the ocean," he said Saturday. "I don't know."

He had a duffel bag filled with clothes on his passenger seat and a wet-dry vacuum in the back. "If that's all I need, I'll be thankful," he said.

But he brought along insurance documents just in case.

"I've got to see how much of this I'm going to need," he said, "holding out a manila folder stuffed with papers."

Hugh and Mary Lutton, who live on the Outer Banks were less concerned.

"We've had reports from the area and there seems to be little to no damage there, " he said.

Some people on Collington Harbor where the Luttons live still have power and phone service. The Luttons are eager to get home. They've spent the past few night in a hotel in Dunn, North Carolina, with 6-year-old Michael.

"Anything," Hugh Lutton said, "to get out of that hotel room." Hugh Lutton said.

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