Updated 8:10 p.m.
North Topsail Beach is back in full swing after Hurricane Dorian came through the area Thursday night. Beachgoers and residents took to the sand searching for island treasures such as shark teeth, sea glass, and conch shells.
Among beachgoers were David and Rebecca Pahl with their 4-year-old grandson Samuel "Sammie" Warrington, 4.
Sammie said his favorite part of the hurricane was having pancakes and bacon while he enjoyed digging in the sand.
David Pahl said they didn't lose power, a couple of trailers had things blow off but nothing big. Compared to last year, "it was just a regular storm," he said. Last year, they went a week without power due to Hurricane Florence.
"We can't do anything about mother nature, just prepare and everyone by now should know how to prepare," David Pahl said.
One island couple has survived hurricanes for years, including one with a more dangerous outcome.
Rebecca Reynolds said she and her husband were living in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands during Hurricane Irma exactly three years ago on Sept. 6 where they were rescued.
"We were rescued by the Coast Guard, taken out into the middle of the ocean, then rescued out to Florida," she said.
The couple relocated to NTB to be with family only to go through a major hurricane a year later and then again this year with Dorian.
"So we stayed," she said.
Last year during Florence the couple evacuated Topsail Island. This year they chose a different strategy decided to board up and not evacuate, she said.
"It's absolutely surreal, it's beautiful, it's crazy," she said in comparison to what they went through in the Virgin Islands versus now with Hurricane Dorian. "It was a cupcake."
Though RebReynolds said Dorian was nothing like Florence or Irma, the experience inside of their boarded-up townhome was very real in the night as the strong winds raged over the island.
"Oh, it was whipping," she said of the winds.
The couple was thankful for not losing power, cellphone service or cable TV. Rebecca explained their first moments of Friday morning, they woke up at 5 am and walked outside to see how their community looked.
"It was very surreal, what we heard last night, is not what we see, everything is okay," Reynolds said.
A family from High Point who own a home on the island came into town on Saturday to celebrate a wedding anniversary only to end the week with an evacuation.
Phil and Pat Weekly, their son Ben Daughtridge and daughter-in-law Corena Kiebler are not new to Eastern North Carolina hurricanes.
Phil Weekly said there's a story with a tree in the back of the home with hurricanes.
"Florence blew it 45 degrees that way, Michael blew it back standing up, this one comes in and blew it back this way," he said in a jovial tone, adding they'd probably cut it down now but they've tried to save the tree as long as possible.
The family evacuated to a hotel in Jacksonville for the duration of the storm.
Daughtridge and Kiebler wed three years back on North Topsail Beach where he said just two days before their wedding on the island, there was a tropical storm that came through with much stronger winds than they experienced with Hurricane Dorian.
Daughtridge talked about how different the beach appeared to be affected by Dorian compared to Florence. Last year Florence took sand out and Dorian brought it back in, he said, adding he’s glad to see the beach standing in much better condition.
The family said they took some different measures this time in some aspects, like cleaning out the fridge since last year with Florence, the power was out and the fridge wasn't cleared.
"We were just more prepared this time," Kiebler said.
Pat Weekly said last year they'd just moved into the house and were unsure what it would stand, this year they knew and weren't so worried.
"We all just felt better," she said.
She also mentioned checking the sea turtle nests as a volunteer and thankfully the nests looked okay with just a little damage to the ropes that mark the nests.
"We lucked up again, that's all," Pat Weekly said.
Phil Weekly said his main concern was the roof, as last year their home had roof damage. The family said they continue to encourage people to prepare in the future and heed the warnings because you just never know.
Zach Wyatt, a North Topsail Beach resident, and his family evacuated to the shelter at Dixon Middle School just as they did last year in Florence. Compared to last year with Florence, he said it was completely night and day, everyone was more prepared this year.
"There was a lot more communication," he said.
Wyatt was highly impressed with the improvements in communication between all agencies to the public, especially residents who had to evacuate. He said whether it was through media, social media, alert systems, and phone calls, it was awesome.
"If you didn't have the CodeRed App, you knew everyone else who did have it because everyone's phone went off at the same time," he said.
Wyatt's advice to those in the area that may face hurricanes in the future is: "Honestly, for a mandatory evacuation make sure you can pack your life in two cars and if you can replace it, leave it."
Updated 10:39 a.m.
North Topsail Beach is open for reentry, the town announced in a news release following Governor Roy Cooper’s press conference at 10 a.m.
“We had requested that the governor either lift this mandate or give relief to southern municipalities, such as North Topsail Beach. In his statement this morning, Governor Cooper did rescind the evacuation that impacted Topsail Island,” the news release said. “Based on the governor’s statement and the town’s assessment, the town of North Topsail Beach is now allowing reentry.”
North Topsail Beach also reports crews are conducting initial assessments and looking for road hazards, downed power lines and other threats to safety.
“Our utility providers are in the process of restoring services. Our top priority is safety. With that being said, the initial passes in town are positive,” the release said. “Power outages are possible. ONWASA has established a boil water advisory. But otherwise, initial assessments are positive.”
Updated 10:11 a.m.
North Topsail Beach officials are hoping Governor Roy Cooper can either lift the mandatory evacuation for all barrier islands or at least grant access to NTB now that the worse of Hurricane Dorian is past.
“Not saying we are 100% ready to reopen, but it looks good,” Town Clerk Laura Oxley said. “I’m confident saying things look good and that we are getting positive feedback.
“I think reentry is possible soon today for the island.”
North Topsail Beach put out a notice online around 1 a.m. alerting citizens that emergency response would be delayed, but Oxley said that there weren’t any issues during Hurricane Dorian’s arrival.
“We had a lot of wind and really strong gusts,” she said. “But the notice has now been lifted. We did have washout and I wouldn’t be surprised if some side streets still have standing water, but it’s nothing major. Of course it can be deceptive. But just looking at the buildings, things look fine.”
Oxley added that the first round of damage assessment this morning focused more on public safety, such as downed power lines and obstruction.
“The next assessment soon is to get the building and code inspectors together,” she said. “That will start later today. We are very grateful that damage was minimal.”
A mandatory evacuation for North Topsail Beach remains in effect Friday morning.
Officials are meeting with emergency personnel this morning to make decisions about reentry, according to a Facebook post from the town.
"The wind gusts are still strong. We need to safely travel across the bridge and do an initial assessment before residents & property owners can return," the town wrote in the post.
North Topsail is also waiting for the state's decision in regards to the mandatory evacuation put in place for North Carolina barrier islands prior to Hurricane Dorian's arrival. The town wrote more information would be provided as soon as possible.