This is a question that was asked by many supporters of the National Wildlife Refuge System. We too wanted to know the answer. We checked in with national wildlife refuges along the Atlantic coast from Florida to North Carolina and the answer was similar. Refuges were spared the brunt of this storm and damage was minimal. Refuges near the coast in the path of the storm wisely closed offices and followed hurricane action plans to prepare for a hurricane. Most refuges opened up within a day or two after Hurricane Dorian moved further north up the Atlantic coast. First, they needed to conduct damage assessments, make any needed repairs, and remove trees blocking refuge roads. Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge took several days to remove downed trees before re-opening.
One of the most vulnerable national wildlife refuges in Dorian’s path was Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge which is part of the North Carolina outer banks. As expected, there was overwash of sand covering highway NC-12 and some beach dune loss. However, both the highway and the wildlife refuge visitor center survived the storm without impacts.
Wildlife habitat may have taken the biggest hit. This has been a record breaking season for sea turtle nesting along the Atlantic coast. Although late in the season there were still hundreds of sea turtle nests that had not hatched and potentially lost due to the nests being washed away or drowned by the combination of high tides and storm surge.