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Bonnie finally moves up coast


NORTH CAROLINA (August 28, 1998) -- After being downgraded to a tropical storm earlier in the day, Bonnie

regained its hurricane status Thursday night as it slowly crawled back out

to sea after drenching the eastern half of North Carolina with more than

10-inches of rain.

As the hurricane left the Carolinas, it crashed through eastern

Virginia, blowing down utility lines and causing other damage. Forecasters

predict the hurricane will travel north along the Eastern seaboard on


Emergency officials in North Carolina have begun to compile preliminary

reports of damage caused by the hurricane. Many local officials expressed

relief that initially it appears that Bonnie created less havoc in that

state than had been expected.

"We could not be more relieved," said Richard Moore, North Carolina's

secretary of public safety. "For whatever reason, the winds did

not do as much damage as expected."

Along some areas of the coast, local residents began returning home

Thursday night even though at least 400,000 residents were still without


Faith-based disaster response organizations, including Lutheran Disaster

Response (LDR) and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, have sent grants to

North Carolina communities. Other organizations are beginning to assess

future needs in the affected communities.

Gil Furst, LDR's director, will join assessment teams in North Carolina

this weekend.

According to preliminary reports, the most damage occurred along the

Cape Fear River south of Wilmington where the Hurricane first made landfall.

In several different communities near Wilmington, generators for sewage

treatment plants apparently failed during the storm releasing raw or

partially treated sewage into area streams.

In Carolina Beach and adjoining Hamby Beach, city officials said

Thursday night that six buildings and two trailers were destroyed and at

least 100 homes received major damage. More than 700 other homes had minor


Officials in Calabash in Brunswick County said at least 150 homes

received significant damage and a police spokesperson in Swansboro said the

small town had sustained at least $1.4 million in damage.

LDR, which is coordinating local services through North Carolina

Lutheran Family Services, also is bringing in a psychologist to give

pastors tips on administering emotional aid to survivors.

Meanwhile other response efforts include recovery teams toting chain

saws who are heading to Brunswick, Carteret, New Hanover and Onslow

counties courtesy of the North Carolina United Methodist Conference. The

organization is also directing attention to flooding concerns, said

conference disaster coordinator Rev. Jerry Jackson.

As Bonnie moved back out over the ocean, forecasters said even fears of

major flooding may not be warranted although floods could cause damage in

low-lying and poor drainage areas.

A flash flood watch was still posted in more than a dozen NC counties on

Thursday night.

"Anywhere else in the world, this kind of rain would be a bad

situation," said John Elardo, a

forecaster at the National Weather Service. Citing recent dry weather that

soaked up the more than 10-inches of rain that fell on the state Wednesday

and Thursday, he added that the state's sandy soil "is good for absorbing


President Bill Clinton declared a major disaster for North Carolina

coastal counties affected by Bonnie. The declaration means that aid will be

available to homeowners, businesses and local governments that sustained

damage from the storm.

Moving out to the Atlantic, rain and high winds are expected to affect

the coast as far north as Rhode Island. Tropical storm warnings were posted

along the coast. Flood watches have been posted for part of the eastern

shore of Maryland and northern New Jersey.

The hurricane season's fourth storm, Hurricane Danielle, has

strengthened slightly to 90 mph, and is located more than 250 miles NE of

the Virgin Islands. Forecasters say they expect the storm will not affect

the U.S. coast, but warn that it is still too early to be certain of its


-- George Piper contributed to this story.

Posted August 28, 1998

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