Hurricane Bonnie yanked electrical power from tiny Harkers Island about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday - leaving only overcast skies to announce her arrival.
No reason to panic, said lifelong islander Agnes Michaels. For locals, hurricanes along North Carolina's outer banks are almost as common as the annual scallop harvest.While Bonnie has prompted thousands of Carolinians to flee their coastal homes, most residents of the island - located about a mile off Morehead City - were staying put.
Michaels couldn't even convince her 89-year-old father, Charlie Hancock, to leave his waterfront home and stay with family.
"He told me, `I've stayed here in this house all my life; there's no reason to leave now,' " she said.
Indeed, most residents are relying on boarded-up homes, a cache of food staples and a rich supply of island saltiness to weather Bonnie.
Michaels guessed only 20 or 30 families evacuated Harkers Island, pop. 1,800.
"And most of those were `ding-batters,' people who aren't from the island but live here in the summer," Michaels said.
About 20 families living in mobile homes did seek refuge inside Harkers Island's LDS meetinghouse. The island has a rich Mormon heritage, with almost a fifth of its population belonging to the local ward.
"Our food storage means we're ready when hurricanes come," said Michaels, a lifelong LDS church member.
Preparedness won't entirely ease hurricane anxiety. "There's nothing romantic about a hurricane; it's never fun," Michaels said.
She recalls feeling the walls of her childhood home sway with the shifting gales when hurricanes arrived. "It can sound like a lion's roar that's silenced, then roars again," she said.
Islanders fear Hurricane Bonnie could be a guest that wears out her welcome.
"She may not leave until Friday, and she's already blowing pretty good," Michaels said on Wednesday.
By early Thursday, wind speeds had reached about 90 mph on the island, forcing Michaels and her husband, Lloyd, to venture outside and board up the greenhouse.
"I walked out on my (enclosed) back porch and everything was flying by," said Lloyd Michaels.
The brunt of the storm later shifted northwest Thursday and raged over New Bern.
While Hurricane Hazel in the 1950s is regarded by many as the nastiest storm to hit the island this century, a 1933 hurricane is likely the most tragic.
A fisherman named Jimmy Hamilton and his three sons drowned when the surprise hurricane smacked island waterways.
"They didn't name hurricanes in those days, so now, whenever bad weather comes in, someone will say `This looks like a Jimmy Hamilton storm,' " Michaels said.