Isaias storm surge pushes nearly 20 boats from marina into Southport neighborhood

Boats drift to Southport neighborhood

SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WECT) - Neighbors in Indigo Plantation awoke to quite a sight the morning after hurricane Isaias.

Kelley Wallace doesn’t own a boat, but the storm surge pushed a 36 foot trawler, still attached to a dock and two pilings, into his back yard. Wallace’s home is a quarter mile away from the Southport Marina and backs up to Cottage Creek.

Monday night, he says the creek looked more like a lake. Neighbors say waves were lapping at their back doors during the storm.

Wallace says he heard loud booms as the eye of the storm passed Southport and he woke up in the middle of the night to a bright light shining in his bedroom window. When his wife woke up the next morning, she told him there was a boat in the backyard.

As the couple began cleaning up the damage from the hurricane, the boat’s owner showed up at the end of their driveway.

“The gentleman said ‘That’s my boat that’s in your backyard,’ and I wasn’t sure how we knew that until later he explained he was actually on the boat all night when It left the marina,” said Kelley Wallace.

Bill Howell lived on his boat, Star of the Sea, and decided to ride the hurricane out inside at the Southport Marina. He made his preparations, doubled his lines and fell asleep onboard watching TV.

Around 10 p.m., he woke up to the storm howling.

“All of the sudden all I saw was boats surrounding me and crashing into my boat and tearing up my beautiful teak railings and everything else. The wind was blowing like crazy and it was raining. I couldn’t see anything,” said Bill Howell.

He could feel the boat moving, he just didn’t know where he was drifting.

Eventually, he crashed into a group of trees. The boat came to rest at a 30 degree angle.

When he looked outside, he could see a house. Howell decided to wait until dawn to emerge from the boat.

“I looked down off the side of my boat and there was a section of dock there. I said ‘How convenient! I pulled up next to somebody’s dock!’ So I just hopped off and I later found out that I dragged two pilings and a section of the dock from the west side of the marina all the way over there with me,” laughed Howell.

He couldn’t find his shoes, so he set off through Wallace’s backyard barefoot and walked into town until a driver found him walking and drove him back to the marina.

“Would I do it again? No,” said Howell. “Kinda reminded me of Forrest Gump and Lieutenant Dan at the top of the mast. I wasn’t swearing to God or anything but I figured, ‘Well I can handle this.‘”

The Star of the Sea wasn’t the only boat that ended up in Indigo Plantation after Monday night’s storm surge.

Mitch Mohr lives next to the Wallace family. He estimates nearly 20 boats and 200 yards of dock, debris, coolers and electrical hookups made its way to the neighborhood overnight.

Most of the boats were still firmly tied to the dock. One of the boats that drifted to his backyard also had a man inside who had ridden out Hurricane Isaias.

Mohr says he’s happy the wreckage stopped short of hitting his house, but he’s eager to learn who’s actually going to remove the boats. He’s reached out to several agencies, but so far no one has a plan for getting them out of the marsh.

While the site is certainly an eyesore to neighbors, he’s more concerned about the safety issues with the site and the gas that’s leaking into Cottage Creek.

“The day after the hurricane you could literally smell you know the diesel fuel oil smells I think some of that’s probably dissipated but several of these boats are on their side which is probably more problematic in terms of discharge down the line. Well this may not be their priority right now I can only think that down the road this is going to be an ecological issue,” said Mohr.

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