Hurricane Irene is working-class disaster for NC

By RAY HENRY | September 2, 2011 | 3:58 PM EDT

Nationwide Insurance volunteer Melissa Herring hands bags of free bottled water as residents of Kinston, N.C. continue to clean up from damage caused by Hurricane Irene on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011. It was a combined effort by Nationwide, Food Lion, Lowes and other local businesses to help those affected by the hurricane. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Chris Seward)

NAGS HEAD, N.C. (AP) — A tourist heading to Nags Head this Labor Day weekend might not realize a hurricane flooded the North Carolina coast about a week ago.

Blue skies are back and restaurants are open, selling seafood and ice cream.

But a real disaster has befallen the local workers who serve tourists and keep the towns running. A hardware store clerk mucks out water at her parents' home in between waiting on customers. A car mechanic says he cried to several bank tellers while describing the flood that destroyed his neighborhood. While tourists on the barrier islands can eat fresh fish and crabcakes, emergency workers are still distributing relief meals in the countryside.

The hurricane did hit some upscale tourist neighborhoods, but some of the hardest burdens have fallen on the less affluent.