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Seaside U.S. city digs out as Hurricane Irene scrapes


09:32, August 29, 2011

OCEAN CITY, United States. Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- The morning after Hurricane Irene scrapes pass the seaside resort of Ocean City, Maryland, the town is beginning to dig out on Sunday, as residents return and businesses assess their damage.

Bill Gibbs, who owns several businesses along the city's beachfront boardwalk, was directing workers to clear debris outside one of his sports gear stores. Part of the roof that had some advertising hanging above the display window collapsed during the storm overnight.

Gibbs estimated his damage to be around 2,000 to 3,000 U.S. dollars.

The eye of Hurricane Irene, which has caused at least 11 deaths in the United States so far, passed Ocean City within 50 miles in the early morning hours on Sunday. Localized flooding was reported as sustained winds reached 60 miles per hour, with top wind speed recorded at 80 miles per hour. Rainfall amount totaled 12 inches.

City officials were in the process of assessing the town and plan to reopen the community Sunday morning. No injuries have been reported so far, but power outages were still reported in some areas of the city. The wastewater plant, which had been shut down as the storm approached, was in the process of being put back into service on Sunday, according to city officials.

The relatively light damage to the city was attributed to better preparation. The city moved almost all of its 7,500 residents who live here year-round out of the storm's path, and a mandatory evacuation this week cleared about 200,000 tourists. City Mayor Rick Meehan said that only about 300 people left behind.

Meehan said that when Hurricane Gloria struck 25 year ago, the city's boardwalk was destroyed, and this time around, "we've got a lot more protection."

He said that now building along the shores have sand dunes and a sea wall to protect them. Laori Ciminelli, a business owner who lives in the city, said that she thinks the damage is relatively low because the Hurricane made landfall first in North Carolina, and that significantly weakened it.

The storm made its first landfall near Cape Lookout in North Carolina early Saturday, and re-entered the Atlantic, churning northeast bound along the coast, making its second landfall early Sunday morning, leaving more than 3 million homes and businesses without power and unloading more than a foot of water on North Carolina and spun off tornadoes in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

But Ocean City didn't see that kind of damage. Ciminelli said that she originally wanted to stay in the city for the hurricane, but her two small niece were in town to visit, so she took them on Saturday to stay with a relative in a nearby town.

Ciminelli said that last night wasn't scary at all. She said that this wasn't her first storm. She had a house in Hatteras, North Carolina, destroyed a few years back by Hurricane Elizabeth.

"But I salvaged the wood, and used them to open a bar here," she grinned.

Gibbs said that the real damage to the town is the loss of business.

"You have the loss of sales revenue, hotel, food, and tax," he said, estimating the loss of revenue over the weekend to be around a couple of million dollars.


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