Triangle dodges full brunt of Irene

Staff WriterAugust 28, 2011 

The westernmost bands of Hurricane Irene whipped through the Triangle on Saturday, knocking out power to more than 50,000 homes but sparing the region from the more serious damage inflicted on coastal areas.

The effects are "relatively wimpy compared to what we are seeing on the coast," said Mike Strickler, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Raleigh.

Raleigh was expected to receive about 2 inches of rain, while Durham and Chapel Hill received little if any.

Johnston County, where a flash flood watch was in effect through Saturday night, was expected to receive 2 to 4 inches.

In Raleigh, the storm knocked out power to 60 traffic signals, said Carl Dawson, the city's public works director. Crews responded to 80 downed trees. All but 14 were removed by 6:30 p.m.

State officials closed a section of Falls of Neuse Road after trees were spotted leaning near the roadway. The road re-opened about 7 p.m.

"It certainly could've been much worse," Dawson said. "We were very lucky in that we were on the fringe of this thing. Thirty or 40 miles would've made a big difference in how much damage we had."

Progress Energy reported that, as of 8 p.m., 12,700 Wake County customers and 10,900 Johnston County customers were still without power. As of 6:30 p.m., Duke Energy reported 4,400 customers in Durham County and 2,600 in Orange County had no electricity.

The outages peaked about 2 p.m., when more than 279,000 homes were without power, Progress officials said. The company said it would take several days to complete repairs, especially in the hardest-hit areas. More than 1,000 line workers and tree crews are expected to be involved.

About 100 of Raleigh-Durham International Airport's 400 daily flights were canceled Saturday. American and United airlines canceled all flights, and Continental grounded its planes during the afternoon, said airport spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin.

matt.garfield@newsobserver.com or 919-836-4952

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