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Aug 28, 2011 11:59 AM by Chris Welty

After Irene: Little Damage Seen in Many Places

KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. (AP) - From North Carolina to
Pennsylvania, Hurricane Irene appeared to have fallen short of the
doomsday predictions. But with rivers still rising, and roads
impassable because of high water and fallen trees, it could be days
before the full extent of the damage is known.
More than 4.5 million homes and businesses along the East Coast
lost power, and at least nine deaths were blamed on the storm. But
as day broke Sunday, light damage was reported in many places, with
little more than downed trees and power lines.
"I think it's a little strong to say we dodged a bullet.
However, it certainly could have turned out worse for the Hampton
Roads area" in Virginia, said National Weather Service
meteorologist Mike Montefusco.
At the same time, officials warned of the possibility of severe
flooding over the next few days as runoff from the storm makes its
way into creeks and rivers. In some parts of the Northeast, the
ground was soggy even before the storm because of an extremely
rainy August.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said: "The rivers may not crest
until Tuesday or Wednesday. This isn't just a 24-hour event."
Irene's storm surge and heavy rain of six inches to a foot in
many places triggered flooding along much of the East Coast. The
storm was still pummeling the Northeast on Sunday morning, dropping
below hurricane strength but still dangerous with 65 mph winds and
heavy downpours.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell had initially warned that Irene
could be a "catastrophic" monster with record storm surges of up
to 8 feet.
But in Virginia Beach, the city posted on Twitter late Saturday
that initial reports were promising, with the resort area suffering
minimal damage. And in Ocean City, Md., Mayor Rick Meehan reported:
"Scattered power outages. No reports of major damage!"
In Lusby, Md., Constellation Energy Nuclear Group said one of
two nuclear reactors at Calvert Cliffs went off-line automatically
because of Irene's winds. Constellation said the plant was safe.
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said Irene inflicted
significant damage along her state's coast, but that the full
extent was unclear because some areas were unreachable because of
high water or downed power lines.
Perdue planned an aerial tour Sunday of the hardest-hit counties
after TV coverage showed downed trees, toppled utility poles and
power lines and mangled awnings.
Officials in North Carolina's Dare County said they were advised
there was extensive flooding that needed to be checked out.
Elsewhere, authorities suggested Irene didn't create the kind of
havoc that had been anticipated.
"We were prepared for a lot worse, but we got lucky on this
one," said Bruce Shell, New Hanover County, N.C., manager.
He said many of the 70,000 homes that lost power Saturday were
back online in the evening and a wastewater spill at Wrightsville
Beach appeared to be minor.
Pinehurst dentist Harwell Palmer said his home in Ocean Isle
Beach, N.C., lost a few pieces of siding and there was some street
flooding, but a pier that took a pounding from the waves was still
standing. The storm did gobble up some of the sand.
"The main concern we will have going forward is the loss of
beach," he said.
The question still facing the region was whether Irene's effects
over the next few days would match the mess left behind by such
storms as Floyd and Isabel.
In 1999, Floyd dropped at least 15 inches of rain on eastern
North Carolina. The flooding was the most damaging in the state's
history, topping $3 billion in North Carolina. Four years later,
Isabel brought hurricane conditions to eastern North Carolina and
southeast Virginia, causing about $1 billion in damage.
In Ocean City, Md., Charlie Koetzle stayed throughout the storm.
He was up at 4 a.m., walking on the city's boardwalk, and said by
phone that he saw at least one sign that had been blown down but
that the pier was still intact.
"The beach is still here, and there is lots of it," he said.

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