Beaufort County Family Remembers Weathering Hurricane Irene In A Treehouse

The last tropical system to cause any significant damage to Eastern Carolina was almost three years ago with Hurricane Irene, which dumped over 15 inches of rain in parts of Beaufort County, flooding homes and roads.

One resident living off Pamlico Beach road recalls seeking refuge in their tree house to get away from the rising waters.

On August 26, 2011, Shari Tourlitis and her family lost everything in Hurricane Irene. She says, "Our neighbor, whose father is in his 90s, and he said there hadn't been flooding like that and damage like that in this area since the '30s."

Their home near the Pungo River was swept off its foundation that night as water rushed in.

Tourlitis says, "Everybody had left that could leave and our neighbors were both gone and the ones down the road are like a quarter of a mile away, so it wasn't like they were right around the corner that we could go somewhere for help.

During the night Irene was coming ashore, the family stayed in a treehouse for about 6 hours. It's about 7 feet off the ground and the water was steadily coming up.

The treehouse was the highest thing on their property, until they built their home and put it on stilts.

Tourlitis says, "We made sure this time we're up on pylons, the pylons go way down deep, we don't have worry about the foundation this time. If we have to worry about anything, it's going to be mostly likely be the wind."

Tourlitis says it took them more than six months to rebuild their home and return to normal.

But with two years without a hurricane, seeing a tropical system with the potential to head near the coast, they're watching its every move. She says, "It's nerve racking, but that's the price you have to pay living here and having the beauty.'

While they hope the storm just passes on by, Tourlitis says they're moving lawn furniture off the porch and any other items that could become projectiles if the winds kick up.