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North Carolina Newspapers

The Brunswick beacon. (Shallotte, N.C.) 19??-current, November 23, 1994, Page PAGE 5-A, Image 5

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Here's The Big Deal About Sunset Beach's Quaint Bridge SUNSET BEACH? Three people were killed and at least two dozen homes were destroyed last night by a wind-whipped fire that raged out of control as an abnormally high tide prevented emergency workers from reaching the island across its auaint swine bridge. Hundreds of people, driven from their homes, crowded the island causeway in hopes of escaping the conflagration. Across the waterway, firefighters from five departments stood helplessly watching flames leap high into the night sky. "It was like something out of the movie Apocalypse Now, " said the owner of a summer home leveled by the blaze. "Military helicopters were landing in the marsh. They were hauling injured people on stretchers through the grass and evacuating them. It was awful. " The fire discov ered in an oceanfront home at about 2 a.m. By then, the blaze already had spread to a neighboring house. Driven by a stiff southwest wind, and without fire fighting equipment on scene to slow its progress, the fire jumped to a third home, where a mother and her two children were asleep. Eric Carlson The three apparently succumbed to smoke inhalation and were un able to escape, according to one of the many volunteer firefighters who arrived shortly after the blaze burned itself out on the shore of the Intracoastal Waterway. " We warned them this could hap pen, " he said. Indeed they have. But luckily it hasn't happened. Yet. Which reminds me of the story about the eternal optimist who fell off a skyscraper. As he flew past the open windows on the way down, he could he heard to remark again and again. "So far. So good." So what is the big deal about the Sunset Beach bridge? It's old. It's falling apart It needs to be replaced. That we know It floats, so when the tide gets re ally high, it becomes impassable. When that happens, fire trucks and ambulances cannot get to the island. Period. And people who want to leave can't get off. No question about it. Every day during tourist season, cars Rack up tor nunareas ot yaras on either side of the bridge. They are waiting for someone to change the red light to green, so they can drive across the rickety single-lane roadway. Hour after hour. Day after day. Meanwhile, boats line up waiting for the bridge to do its little swing thing so they can continue their pas sage up and down the Intracoastal Waterway. When the bridge opens, the lines of cars get even longer. Every time. The N.C. Department of Trans portation wants to replace the anti quated Sunset Beach bridge. They want to build a nice, stable, 65-foot high roadway, two lanes wide. Which would mean no more lines of cars. No more lines of boats. No more tide problems. No fears of los ing emergency access. No mecha nisms to break down or maintain. No bridge worker salaries to pay. Makes sense. Doesn't it? You would think so. But some folks on Sunset Beach like the old bridge. They say they don't mind the bother. They say a new bridge would be less attractive. They say it would encourage too many peopie to visit the isiand. They are afraid some of those visi tors might stay. Just like they did. Bridge lovers also say that replac ing it will spoil the island's charm. As if daily inconvenience and the potential loss of emergency services is somehow charming. Personally, I think the Sunset Beach bridge is ugly. Approaching it from the water, it looks like an old dredge boat got wedged sideways in the channel. From the road, it has all the ambiance of a highway toll booth. To cross the Sunset Beach bridge, you first have to wait in line behind a bunch of cars whose drivers are burning fossil fuel and spewing car bon monoxide into the atmosphere to keep their air conditioners run ning. As you finally clatter across, you see a bunch of boats burning up fos sil fuel and spewing carbon monox ide (and the contents of their bilges) into the waterway. Eventually, you get to drive across the causeway, where there are more bumper-to-bumper cars, more fossil fuel burning and more carbon monoxide spewing. How charming. Folks on Sunset beach just don t realize what they're missing by not having their very own high-rise bridge. In fact, I'll bet hardly any of them have ever seen their island from 65 feet in the air. I love the Holden Beach bridge. I think it's a work of art, gracefully rising and curving and descending in a great arc, not unlike the path a seagull might take across the water way. I never get tired of crossing our A bridge. Going to work in the morn ing, climbing into the air past the town hall, I can gaze out across Lockwood Folly Inlet and see all the way to Oak Island lighthouse. At the peak, I look down at shrimp boats tied up to the docks and see beauti ful sailboats and yachts migrating along the waieiway. Coming home, 1 often slow to a crawl at the top of the bridge, just to take in the grandeur of that magnifi cent ocean view. I would hate to pass up all the stunning sunsets I've enjoyed while slowly coasting down to the island's surface. I don't miss our rickety old one lane bridge at all. In fact, I can still see it any time I want to. In a paint ing, on our living room wall, where it actually looks quite charming. When The Walls Came Tumbling Down "Storm Decimates Milepost 4 Area " That was the headline on an October issue of the Outer Banks Cunent some 12 or so years back The raging Atlantic had chosen a Sunday afternoon to consume ten ocean front homes at Kitty Hawk while property owners, police offi cers and gawkers stood helplessly by 1 had a story to cover. The memories washed in on a rogue wave last Thursday night as I watched a wide-eyed, rain-suited television reporter marveling at the angry sea and stiff wind and waiting for Hurricane Gordon, who never showed As if the situation were anything for autumn on the Outer Banks ? hurricane or no That Sunday morning in October dawned battleship gray with the northeast wind howling around the corner of my house and squeezing itself into a screech that would alarm houseguests unaccustomed to the sound I built a fire in the woodstove to take the damp chill out of the air Fall and winter days on the Outer Banks can be open-the-windows balmy or blow- your -shingles -off I Lynn Carlson harsh. depending upon the speed and direction of the ever-present wind The Wright Brothers didn't pick their spot at random My friend Owen ? the type of re porter who sleeps with one ear tuned to the police scanner ? called and said to get moving; houses were go ing in at Milepost 4, the area just north of Kill Devil Hills where the dune was long-gone I bundled up in flannel -lined jeans and lots of layers, rigged a plastic bag to protcct my camcra. stuffed rolls of film in every pocket, and took off. When I left home the wind was blowing 70 miles an hour from the northeast, making driving a chal lenge even on the straight, flat five lane "bypass " When Gwen and I approachcd the occanfront, it looked io be snowing, bui ii was 55 de grees. Great clouds of dirty white sea foam whipped through the air and skidded with the scawater across the beach road. Stomping through the water and foam, soaked to the skin by salt spray, I heard for the the first time the twist -twist-pop of a house freeing itself from shaky pilings and tumbling into the sea ? something like screwing the top off a plastic soda bottle. It would take four or five good waves for each cottage to break apart, sending boards, appliances and pieces of cheap furniture afloat, some toward shore and others out to sea. Scavengers were having a field day, albeit a pretty chancy one. There was no question the pictures would be great. We heard the sound four or five more times before the wind got so strong that it was too much trouble to walk anymore. We drove to Hardee's and got a half-dozen cups of coffee to deliver to the cops on the scene. It was Gwen's modus opcrandus ? if you bring food or beverage, you'll leave with information. I've seen her take a cake to FBI agents, Christmas cookies to the P.D. at Christmastime, ham biscuits to firefighters at dawn. Worked every time. We got the name of a woman who'd refused to leave her ocean front home, despite the fact that the power had been turned off and her septic tank was halfway exposed. Officers had to remove her bodily from the cottage, which shortly thereafter become one of The Ten. We got all the nuts and bolts infor mation, what was going on at the other end of the banks, the fact that winds were sustained at right about 80 miles an hour, gusting to 96. An officer warned us we needed to get going. It was getting dark and the wind was getting even stronger. Both Gwen and I had children at home who'd be looking for some supper soon. I stayed up all night afraid the wind would blow the stovepipe off my roof and set my house afire. Sometime just before dawn I dozed off for a few minutes and awakened to a beautiful clear day with a gentle breeze off Kitty Hawk Bay. G&M Interiors Invites You To Our Thanksgiving Sale & Storewide Clearance Friday ? Saturday Monday Nov. 25th, 26th, 28th Save ? Save ? Save * > ?v? . <* Ai ^ *P: ? %?. V* ?->? ?i" ?, > . \ r " r * *"? JLS Save 30% lo 75% Under The Big Top Don 't Miss This Huge Event!! A SALE so big we had to put it in a tent to hold it all!!! Plus Much , Much More!!! ?Sleepers Starting At *399 ?Loveseats Starting At$1" ?Bedroom 4 pc. 449 quality sealy BEDDING ALL AT DISCOUNTED PRICES Sorry. No Refunds, Exchanges or Layaways on Sale Items G&M INTERIORS 1466 Hwy. 17, Little River, SC (803)249-2889 ? 800-676-9819 ?FTcs AUTO JLd S ELECTRIC ALTERNATORS STARTERS VOLTAGE REGULATORS GENERATORS REPAIR ? REBUILT ? EXCHANGED AUTOMOTIVE WIRING 754-7656 Royal Oak Road & Hwy. 17 N., Shallotte * mi THE BRUNSWICK BEACON E. Second Street ? Ocean Isle Beach ? 579-0535 & (Beside Jungle Golf) Weekly Entertainment Schedule Monday-Mon. Nite Football On Our Big Screen TV Drink Specials All Night! Tuesday-Dance Nite-Playing your Favorites Wednesday-Shag Nite Thursday-Dance Nite Friday -Live Entertainment by Carolina Gold Saturday-Live Entertainment by Caroling Gold Sunday-Drink Specials Jojn Us Tonite! pi 5% Off Dinner Entrees] or Free Dozen Oysters on-the-half shell w/ this coupon (not valid Thanksgiving Day) Valid thru 11/30/94-Qne coupon per customer! Join Us For a Traditional ttan giving i Buffet featuring Roast Breast of Turkey & Baked Glazed Ham Plus An Array of Traditional Vegetables, Breads and Desserts $?95 Only W (Includes Coffee or Tea) Don t Forget Our Complete Breakfast & Lunch Specials / S050 only O 15% off Breakfast or Lunch w/ Church Bulletin Open 5:30 AM-Until... Everyday! RAW BAR NIGHTLY 5-7 PM Steamed Crab Leg Steamed Peel 'n Eat Buffalo Oysters Cluster Clams Shrimp Wings 25' s2 35c s39\?, 15' Now booking Christmas parties! >

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