Residents of the island portions of North Topsail Beach and Surf City might be permitted to return to their properties by Thursday, but officials stressed that re-entry continues to be a moving target as crews clear roads, check utilities and assess bridges and buildings for safety.

They said residents should watch for official word on Facebook or await other notification from the towns before trying to return.

"There are rumors flying everywhere in incidents like this," said Allan Libby, director of tourism and public information for Surf City.

Libby said he's heard that about 12 residents may have weathered Hurricane Florence on the island part of Surf City. Authorities had not heard of any injuries.

As the days passed, residents took to social media to complain that they had waited long enough.

"They're going to have a lot more people riding the next storm out that is for sure!" one person said on Twitter.

Saying he knew frustration was building, Libby asked for continued patience.

"They've got nothing to do except sit and be concerned," he said. "That's understandable. They've lost sleep, and the novelty of this has long since worn off."

But crews need the time to ensure the island was safe to return, he said.

The same was true Wednesday in North Topsail Beach.

"Some of the roads, you can't even see because of so much sand," said Laura Oxley, the town clerk and public information officer. "We're fortunate that most of the buildings are still standing."


Of the structures in North Topsail, Oxley said nearly 900 sustained minor damage in the storm. Seventy-five sustained major damage.

"That's just cursory," she said.

Libby said longtime residents are describing Florence as "a combination of (hurricanes) Matthew and Floyd." He said Surf City received as much as 43.5 inches of rain while the storm lingered over North Carolina for days.

He said the town was learning from the storm response and would apply those lessons for the next hurricane.

"And there will be a next time," he said.