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North Carolina Picks Up After Hurricane Irene


Irene barreled through the southern and mid-Atlantic states in the early morning hours. NPR's Greg Allen was on the scene in North Carolina.


GREG ALLEN: By the time Irene hit North Carolina's Outer Banks, it still packed 85-mile per hour winds and higher gusts. Structures did well, losing mostly just roof shingles and siding. Trees, however, were a different story.

COLA EDMUND: A humongous tree branch just came down and snapped our power line in two.

ALLEN: Cola Edmund is one of many in North Carolina who lost power because of the storm. She says the power company came out quickly.

EDMUND: But before we even called, the transformer blew again and you had the explosion of kaboom, kaboom, and lights just flashing.

ALLEN: Hundreds of thousands of customers in North Carolina lost power and emergency crews are dealing with many other headaches. Some wastewater treatment plants were inundated by floodwaters, interrupting service for thousands. At a briefing, Governor Beverly Perdue was asked if she was relieved Irene did not fulfill earlier predictions and hit as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane.

BEVERLY PERDUE: I'm not good at rating hurricanes, because in my book, any hurricane is a dangerous, mean hurricane. And whether this was a five or a one, this state and our people have sustained some really significant damage.

ALLEN: Underlying the governor's words, as Irene moved northward and the winds shifted, the hurricane's storm surge came ashore. In New Bern, high winds and flooding combined to knock out power for 90 percent of the city's 30,000 residents. City spokesperson Colleen Roberts says much of New Bern saw seven feet of water.

COLLEEN ROBERTS: We're seeing the storm surge recede as the winds are sort of circulating around and now blowing it all back out for us, and they've receded very quickly.


ALLEN: In the town of Manteo, on Roanoke Island, as Irene moved north and the winds began to die, the storm surge quickly inundated low-lying areas.

CALVENA RUSSELL: Fifteen minutes ago, there was no water up here. We just drove through here. There was no water on the street at all, and now all of the sudden, boom.

ALLEN: Calvena Russell says this area, the old part of town, has flooded many times before. Ken Daniels stopped by to check on his business, Manteo Furniture. Water was already creeping onto his property. I asked him if he was concerned.

KEN DANIELS: Yes. How deep will it get? If it gets the store wet and wets the carpet, we have to move all the carpet, put new flooring in and try to be back open for business as soon as we can.

ALLEN: In another part of town, the road in and out of Manteo is now totally flooded. Next to it, there's a parking lot with about a dozen cars there. Most of them are already flooded out. The ones that aren't soon will be.

STEVE GWALTNEY: Yeah, they're pretty well messed up.

ALLEN: Steve Gwaltney came by just to see it. Old-timers say they recall this part of town only flooding once before in 1993. In many ways, Irene is an unusual storm; in its size, its power and its nearly straight-line track up the East Coast. But Gwaltney says it could have been worse.

GWALTNEY: I think that we are so blessed and so lucky that it wasn't a three. I mean, look, you know. This is a one.

ALLEN: Today, state and local officials will be working to assess how much damage Irene inflicted on North Carolina. Greg Allen, NPR News, Manteo, North Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.