A report from the coast: Former Salisburian dealing with storm’s aftermath in Crystal Coast area

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 16, 2018

By Mark Wineka

Ben Taylor felt a bit conflicted Saturday.

The Salisbury native had ridden out Hurricane Florence’s impact as part of a skeleton crew at the nine-story, oceanfront Double Tree by Hilton hotel in Atlantic Beach.

The hotel is without power and has been even since before Florence made landfall Thursday night. Atlantic Beach is still on a curfew.

Taylor could leave the island by crossing the bridge to Morehead City, but law enforcement officers aren’t allowing anyone to return.

Meanwhile, Taylor hasn’t been able to check on his house in Beaufort, a nearby town that also was hit ferociously by Florence. He heard Saturday the bridge into Beaufort may be out of commission, and he also learned from friends that a foot of water was standing in downtown Beaufort Friday.

A neighbor has checked in with him to report on Taylor’s house. He told Taylor it appeared to be in good condition. One of Taylor’s biggest concerns was six boats he had secured on his property, but they all seemed to be intact.

Prior to the hurricane, Taylor had set up two wi-fi cameras at his house — one pointed at the boats in the yard and another at the front portion of his house. But because the power was lost, “it didn’t do me any good,” he says.

Taylor, 33, takes care of the grounds and landscaping at the hotel, which has about 200 rooms.

“I decided to stay and ride it out and help as much as I could,” he says.

The hotel left plenty of food and drinks and a butane stove with the staff members who stayed. During the height of the storm, Taylor was — and still is — staying in a fourth-floor room facing west. About half of the rooms at the hotel face east, but that wasn’t a good direction to be facing as Florence made landfall.

“In the middle of the night was when it really got bad,” Taylor said of the storm. “… It was a pretty good one, pretty good impact. … The wind was definitely something.”

The railings of the hotel pier were torn down. Siding blew off, Some entrance signs are gone. The beach bar’s roof was blown away. A ceiling fell in over the front desk.

Taylor’s annual flowers are gone outside. Some hotel trees have been uprooted and fences have been damaged.

“I really wasn’t expecting all this.” Taylor said. “I’m glad I was here to help.”

As he spoke Saturday, he and others were going floor by floor trying to open doors and create drafts that would help dry things out. Taylor noted that the wind-driven rain was forced in under the sliding doors of many balconies.

The hotel has provided some rooms for firefighters and police officers. In talking with them, Taylor has learned that several gas stations have been damaged, and things are even worse in Morehead City.

Taylor said he would like to be able to leave and check on his home in Beaufort, but now he thinks Monday might be his earliest chance.

Ben is the son of Glenn and Kim Taylor of Salisbury.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.