Irene Makes Waves But Spares Most Campgrounds
Hurricane Irene did not live up to weather forecasters’ dire expectations, and for that, many people living and working along the East Coast are breathing a sigh of relief today.
Still, the storm, which made landfall Saturday morning (Aug. 27) in North Carolina’s Outer Banks and blew into southern Ontario this morning, claimed at least one death at a campground and damaged many parks, public and private. Power outages are widespread.
On its march up the East Coast over the weekend, the storm left at least 12 dead, as many as 3.6 million customers without electricity, widespread flooding and damage to coastal towns in several states, The Associated Press reported. It forced the closure of New York’s mass transit system, and the cancellation of thousands of flights.
One Campground Death Reported
Winds from Irene uprooted a tree and killed a man Sunday morning at a campsite at Hidden Lake Campground in northeast Pennsylvania, Luzerne County Coroner John Corcoran said.
The man was sleeping when the tree crashed down on his camper around 9:30 a.m., The Citizens Voice, Wilkes, Barre, Pa., reported.
Several other people in another part of the camper escaped injury, the coroner said.
“It definitely was weather related, storm related,” Corcoran said.
The man, from Wilkes-Barre, was pronounced dead at the scene around 11:30 a.m., Corcoran said. His name was not released Sunday night as the coroner’s office was still trying to contact family.
Sweet Valley Assistant Fire Chief Stan Davis said trees were toppled all throughout the municipality.
The man’s death was one of three deaths reported Sunday in Northeastern Pennsylvania as a result of the storm.
Widespread Power Outages
In Massachusetts, there were widespread power outages and fears that power may not be restored in time for the popular Labor Day weekend coming up.
Shawn Myrick, owner of Walker Island Campground in Chester, in the western end of the state, said his park was “devastated” by the storm. No further details were available.
Marcia Galvin, a campground owner in Foxboro, Mass., reported that power is out throughout her region. As executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners (MACO), she was surveying members today to assess storm damage. She planned to report her findings to state officials later today.
In New Jersey at Seashore Campsites near Cape May where winds were clocked at 71 mph, 10 to 15 trees came down in the storm, Jay Sporl, vice president, reported.
“It wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be,” he said.
Cleanup is underway and the park is open.
At Buttonwood Beach campground in Earleville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, damage was slight and the campground is back open today.
In Connecticut, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) announced that all Connecticut State Parks, beaches and campgrounds will remain closed at least through today to assess damage caused by Hurricane Irene, the Norwalk Plus Magazine reported.
DEEP staff are currently assessing the full impacts of the storm.
“Connecticut’s shoreline parks have suffered the most severe effects of the storm but we need to assess all of our state parks before we allow visitors to return,” said DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty.
“DEEP staff will continue inspecting parks, campgrounds, and beaches tomorrow and reporting to me the conditions and what will need to be done before they can reopen,” Commissioner Esty said. “We also face the challenge of being without power at many of our facilities.”.
Campers will be able to receive full refunds any the nights they were not be able to use their reservations.
In Rhode Island, 300,000 Rhode Island National Grid customers remained without power Sunday night, Patch.com reported. Aquidneck Island’s three communities were the only ones in the state to have 100% power outages, according to Middletown’s Emergency Management Director and Fire Department Chief Ronald Doire.
“I heard other communities at the conference call all reporting partial outages. Aquidneck Island is by far worse off than anyone else in the state with 100%,” Doire said.
“I was on a conference call today with the governor and he described the outage as ‘catastrophic,’ and that is very concerning to me,” Doire said. He also added, “Looking forward, the longer the power is off, the more critical the situation becomes.”
Background on the Storm
As expected, Hurricane Irene made landfall near Cape Lookout, N.C., just before 8 a.m. EDT Saturday with Category 1-force winds of 85 mph. This ended the near three-year gap of a hurricane making landfall along the United States coastline.
The storm dumped up to eight inches of rain on the Washington D.C. region, but the capital avoided major damage.
New Jersey, home to millions of commuters who travel into New York each day, was hard hit by flooding, downed trees and power outages. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he expects damages from Irene to be costly, possibly worth billions of dollars, along the Atlantic coast and from inland river flooding.
Irene officially made landfall in New Jersey near Little Egg Inlet and continued to march northward right along the Jersey shore. This was the first hurricane to have made landfall in New Jersey since 1903.
Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm as it made its third U.S. landfall in the Coney Island area of Brooklyn at approximately 9 a.m. on Sunday.
Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia which was hit earlier by the Hurricane, told CNN “We prepared for the worst but came out a little better than expected. Unfortunately now, four fatalities have been confirmed,”
“We’ve got some significant damage in some areas, from flooding, from wind, a lot of trees down, 2.5 million people or more without power in Virginia, that’s the second largest outage in history,” he said.
In North Carolina, where authorities confirmed at least six storm-related deaths since the storm made landfall on Saturday, Gov. Bev Perdue was expected to request a federal disaster declaration.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) sent out hurricane preparedness information on Friday as Irene approached the U.S. mainland.
The association urged members to contact Barb Youmans (303) 681-0401 ext. 118 for information on how to donate to or apply for funds from the ARVC Foundation Disaster Relief Fund.
This year has been one of the most extreme for weather in U.S. history, with $35 billion in losses so far from floods, tornadoes and heat waves, AP noted.