Tempers flared as tourists stranded on North Carolina's Outer Banks by a bridge collapse waited in a 600-car backup for ferry rides back to the mainland.
Volunteers eased the tension early Monday by handing out snacks and blankets to motorists waiting in the dark in 40-degree weather."People in the community have brought God knows how many sandwiches and coffee and spiced tea and such," said Julia O'Neal, who works in the Ocracoke Island ferry office. "It means a lot when you've got something hot in your hand."
O'Neal declined to guess how many cars remained in line overnight; there were about 600 late Sunday. Lines stretched six miles and took up to 36 hours to negotiate. Officials expected to empty Ocracoke Island of outbound traffic late Monday.
While tourists groused about long lines, some natives complained that visitors were using up gasoline and other supplies.
Relief efforts got into full swing Sunday, with the National Guard flying in 1,500 meals. Other emergency supplies, including fuel, water, blankets and food, were brought onto Hatteras Island, which has 5,000 permanent residents.
Hatteras and Ocracoke islands were cut off from the mainland Friday when a dredge, dragging an anchor in heavy winds and waves, rammed the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet. A 370-foot section of the 21/2-mile span collapsed.
State Sen. Marc Basnight said Sunday that the bridge may be repaired in 45 working days. Officials earlier estimated the work would take at least six months.
Four ferries, capable of moving 150 cars every six hours, are the only means off the two islands. People have had to take one ferry to Ocracoke Island, then another to the mainland. The complete trip takes about 31/2 hours.
Generators were hooked up Sunday on Hatteras, providing limited electricity to three island towns. The accident also knocked out telephone service.