Helping Hands and Hurricanes

By Claire Havice, University of Wisconsin-Madison

As of January 2020, we are halfway through our internship and have supplied missing information for thousands of cultural institutions in North Carolina, Florida, Nebraska, and Texas. Each intern has contributed hundreds of entries, but there are two that stand out for me. Our first task was in response to Hurricane Dorian, a Category 3 hurricane approaching the Atlantic coast. On September 5th, we were assigned the most vulnerable counties in North Carolina. The following day, Dorian made landfall at Cape Hatteras in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane.

Cape Hatteras is located on Hatteras Island, one of the barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks. The Outer Banks has miles of beaches, an abundance of wildlife, and a surprising amount of history and cultural heritage to explore. It’s no surprise that it’s a popular destination for summer vacations given all it has to offer. My first trip to the Outer Banks was cut short when a mandatory evacuation was issued for Hurricane Emily in 1993. I didn’t return to the Outer Banks until 2018, and that trip ended when severe flash flooding threatened to close NC-12, the only road to access Hatteras Island. A few months later Hatteras Island would be inundated by storm surge brought on by Hurricane Florence, closing NC-12.

There was uncertainty about where Dorian would make landfall when we were given our assignment. It was a relief to learn Dorian had weakened by the time it made landfall, though there was still cause for concern. Out of hundreds of institutions, I was able to complete two entries for the Outer Banks. I’m proud to have the opportunity to support the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative’s mission, and I look forward to applying the lessons I’ve learned to aid local cultural institutions through my position in county government.

Grasses and clouds

Thunderstorm approaching Hatteras Island, North Carolina in 2018.
Source: Claire Havice