No stranger to devastating coastal storms, North Carolina fishermen wasted no time preparing for Tropical Storm Isaias set to hit the state late Monday.

In Oriental, N.C., the Bruno family lost everything when Hurricane Florence hit in 2018 destroying both their home and business Endurance Seafood. Now were bracing for Isaias.

“It’s scary. We’ve barely got everything back to normal and now this,” Keith Bruno says. “But this is where we chose to live and work and we are getting as prepared as possible and praying,” says Bruno. “We always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

According to Bruno, it takes days to prepare for storms and as much time to get back in the water.

“It’s frustrating but that’s what you do when you fish for living.”

Not far from the Brunos in Merritt, N.C., 73-year-old gillnetter Peter Darna started preparations early.

“I’ve learned not to wait,” says Darna. “Sometimes you’re right about a storm, sometimes not but I’d rather be prepared and wrong than be blindsided.”

Darna pulled boats and packed up fishing gear over the weekend well ahead of the storm’s arrival.

“You need to do everything you can to be protect your equipment. Even though I hear Isaias isn’t as big or bad as Hurricane Florence, you never know,” says Darna. “Actually, I don’t believe anyone really knows until it happens.”

Merritt, N.C., gillnetter Peter Darna started preparations early for the approach of Tropical Storm Isaias. Maureen Donald photo.

The state Division of Marine Fisheries issued an alert July 31 asking fishermen to keep a close eye on the progress of approaching Hurricane Isaias and to start getting ready for the storm early: “Fishermen should remove fishing gear from the water well before the storm’s arrival. Crab pots and gillnets, especially, are prone to damage and displacement during storms.”

Gov. Roy Cooper sent out an early warning Saturday urging coastal residents to be prepared for Isaias, which weakened to a tropical storm but as expected, is regaining strength as it makes its way toward the Carolinas.

Predictions expected Isaias to crash ashore in the Carolinas Monday night at hurricane intensity between Charleston, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C., causing widespread power outages, coastal inundation of three to five feet in some areas, and heavy rains that could reach eight inches or more in some locations.

“As we learned with Hurricane Florence, even a Category 1 storm can bring severe impacts, and we should not take this lightly,” Cooper said.

While the National Hurricane Center predicted Isaias would start impacting North Carolina late Monday, dangerous rip currents were already occurring along the coastline Monday morning. As local officials ordered evacuations for the Outer Banks, fishermen got to work getting gear out of the water or moved to safer waters.

The good news was Isaias moved through the area quickly.

Maureen Donald is a freelance correspondent for National Fisherman.

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