Irene taking its toll

Published 9:17 am Saturday, August 27, 2011

Despite dangerous weather conditions, city crews continue pumping operations at Jack’s Creek Saturday morning. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

Beaufort County residents awoke to flooded streets, power outages, structural damage and rising rivers and creeks as Hurricane Irene bore down on eastern North Carolina this morning.

No deaths or injuries related to the storm had occurred in the county or any of its municipalities as of roughly 8 a.m. today, said county and city officials.

Washington employees — emergency personnel and Washington Electric Utilities crews — ceased emergency response operations about 7:15 a.m. today when sustained winds reach 50 mph.

That move, following city policy, was made to protect the crews and equipment so they could respond in the wake of the storm. Once winds subside substantially, those crews will resume operations.

Following standard procedure, the county suspended emergency-response calls once the wind reached 50 mph Saturday morning. Responding to calls in hazardous conditions would put first responders at risk, Chrisman pointed out.

“We’re urging people not to call 911 for anything other than emergency situations,” Chrisman said.

Reports of structural or other kinds of damage should be called in to the county’s Emergency Operations Center. The center can be reached by calling 252-946-2046.

Chrisman confirmed there had been reports of structural damage to a mobile home, apparently in the McCotter’s Marina area.

The occupant of the home called 911 before the worst of the wind arrived, and the Bunyan Volunteer Fire Department rescued the occupant with assistance from the National Guard, Chrisman related.

The man was taken to P.S. Jones Middle School, one of the county’s two emergency shelters. Chrisman said he had not been told whether the man was injured, but added, had he been injured, he would have been transported to Beaufort County Medical Center.

Chrisman said the EOC had received multiple reports of structural damage from falling trees. It was unclear where this damage was or how extensive it was.

County officials are urging people to stay in their home until the winds and flooding subside.

Chrisman had had no contact with officials in Belhaven for an undetermined period of time. Other media was reporting significant flooding in Belhaven, which was also hit by an unconfirmed tornado Friday night.

In downtown Washington, the Pamlico River had overspread the bulkhead along the waterfront and Stewart Parkway. The river also had overtaken the parking lot at Haven’s Gardens.

Daily News reporters witnessed a utility poll that was leaning on East Fourth Street. Many tree limbs had fallen in the Park Drive-Third Street locations.

About half of WEU customers were without power as of 8 a.m. today, said Josh Kay, city manager, as he monitored the storm from the city’s Emergency Operations Center at the city’s newest fire station on West 15th Street.

At 8 a.m. today, Irene was 60 miles southwest of Cape Hatteras. Irene, now a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 85 mph, said the National Weather Service.