Virginia residents gird for Irene, one death reported
Aug 27, 2011, 12:53 p.m.
By Matthew Ward
CHESAPEAKE, Va (Reuters) - Scattered power outages and heavy rains hit parts of southeast Virginia on Saturday in the path of Hurricane Irene, with one death reported as the storm moved north from the Carolinas.
An 11 year old boy in Newport News died when he was pinned under a large tree that fell onto and through his apartment building on Saturday morning, according to Kim Lee, a spokeswoman for the city.
"Winds are strong, they are getting worse. We have localized flooding, lots of trees are down, wires are down, roads are blocked or impassable due to trees, downed wires, lots of traffic lights out. We have shelters open," Lee said.
Irene came ashore over North Carolina's Outer Banks near Cape Lookout around 7:30 a.m. EDT (1130 GMT), and then chugged up the coast on a north-northeast track. By 2 p.m. (1800 GMT), the center was 95 miles south of Norfolk, Virginia
From the Carolinas to Maine, tens of millions of people were in the path of the giant 530-mile (830-km) wide storm that dumped more than 17 inches of rain on parts of coastal North Carolina after howling ashore at daybreak.
Throughout Virginia, motorists navigated broken branches, debris and deep puddles to gather storm supplies.
"The waves are pretty big out there and this is only the beginning -- we're expecting it to get worse later today and this evening," said Donnie Finnie, who was working the front desk at The Cavalier Hotel that fronts the ocean on Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach.
"I'm looking out the window, it's raining pretty hard," Finnie said. "The trees are blowing over and we have a couple down."
Some residents on Saturday morning were picking up last minute supplies to ride out Irene, which has caused at least three deaths in North Carolina, according to local media.
A handful of vehicles crossed roads around the Greenbrier area of Chesapeake, Virginia, windshield wipers beating and headlights illuminated.
Matthew Knight, 27, and Becky Knight, 29, clutched several packets of D-sized batteries and scanned what remained on the shelves at a Lowe's hardware store in Chesapeake off Interstate 664 on Portsmouth Boulevard on Saturday.
"We're here to get some last minute stuff," Matthew Knight said. "We ended up getting a generator but we just needed to get some extension cords and a couple of batteries."
Matthew Knight said the couple, who are bread vendors, had just finished an intense three days of deliveries to major area stores including Wal-Mart, Farm Fresh and Food Lion.
"There was a lot more demand for bread -- 100 per cent more demand," Knight said.
The category 1 hurricane hit the North Carolina coast Saturday and began to move upward along the U.S. East Coast.
The City of Chesapeake reported that 100 residents spent Friday night in four shelters. The city has not issued any mandatory evacuation orders but has called on people to leave if they are flood prone or in a mobile home.
Virginia transportation officials closed two tunnels on Saturday, the Interstate 64 Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Midtown Tunnel Saturday morning because of sustained tropical force winds. It also reduced speeds at the Downtown Tunnel.
Sarah Greco, 33, of Chesapeake, was one of the last customers to eat at a Cracker Barrel restaurant near the Lowe's, before it closed for the weekend at 10 a.m. Saturday.
"We just came to grab some breakfast," Greco said, peering from beneath the hood of a rain slicker. "We've just brought in everything from outside and we have plenty of bottled water and canned goods. I feel fine about it."
(Additional reporting by Molly O'Toole in Washington; Writing by David Bailey. Editing by Peter Bohan)