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Thousands lose power along coast

Gusty winds, flooding expected to continue for another day or two.

BY JIM SKILLINGTON | BALTIMORE | November 13, 2009

Hundreds of thousands of people in five states were without power Thursday night as an historic coastal storm that has been stuck off the Mid-Atlantic coast continued to pound communities from North Carolina to New Jersey.

Emergency officials said Thursday the worst may be yet to come as wind-driven waves were expected to create significant flooding during high tides on Friday.

In New Jersey, emergency officials suggested voluntary evacuations Thursday night and the U.S. Coast Guard called off a search for a commercial fishing boat with three men aboard missing off Cape May where wave heights of nearly 20-feet had been reported. As of Thursday afternoon, the only sign of the boat was an empty life raft with a strobe light attached. The Coast Guard was also searching for a missing boater off the North Carolina coast.

A State of Emergency has been declared in southern New Jersey, two counties in Delaware and in the state of Virginia.

Frank McCall, the Emergency Management Director for the southern-most Cape May County, said the storm is expected to be one of the top five storms in the county’s history and may be the costliest.

A bridge connecting Avalon and Sea Isle City may be closed for more than a week after a barge crane broke loose in the storm and rammed the structure.

The intensity and longevity of the storm worry emergency officials.

“The biggest concern is that a hurricane typically will hang around for one, maybe two storm cycles. But this storm will be here for four cycles,” said Terry Raines, President of the Virginia VOAD.

“This is a historical event,” Chris Wamsley, a forecaster for the National Weather Service told the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch. At least three people have died in Virginia traffic accidents as a result of the storm.

At 6:30 PM Thursday the storm surge in Hampton Roads was measured at 7.74-feet, just inches below the record set by Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

“The storm is not over. It is a sustained storm and we have at least two to four high tides to go,” said Laura Southard, spokeswoman for Virginia Emergency Management.

At 11 PM Thursday night, Dominion Virginia Power said more than 177,000 customers did not have power in the southeastern part of the state.

More than 100 roads in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Hampton Roads were flooded, forcing some residents to go to shelters when their homes were inundated by water. In Danville, the Dan River was expected to crest early Saturday at more than 29-feet some 10 feet above flood stage.

North Carolina got hit with high winds and rain as well. The storm downed trees and prompted flood warning throughout the state. In Jacksonville, NC, the heavy rainfall caused the sewer system to overflow in several locations.

Right now the focus is on preparation, readiness and storm watching as the rain and high winds continue.

“At this very moment there are very many of us watching the storm to see how it develops,” said Raines.

Monica Olivas contributed to this article.


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