Hurricane Irene unloaded more than a foot of rain on top of storm surge in eastern North Carolina. Flood waters swept into towns near the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds as ocean water spilled into narrow inlets, and then into neighborhoods. Meteorologist Brandan Dunstan says the massive storm spread hurricane-force wind gusts and rain from the coast to the Piedmont.
Brandan Dunstan: "It looks like the highest rainfall amounts were generally Raleigh eastward - around 2 inches around the Triangle. The highest amounts were along the coast, though, where we had a good swath of 8-plus inches with some in excess of 12 inches along portions of the coastal areas."
Some of the worst flooding occurred in Craven County, where the storm surge overwhelmed the Neuse River. But county emergency management assistant director Ira Whitford says main highways are now mostly clear of debris.
Ira Whitford: "Primarily, what I've seen is just a lot of trees down and a lot of flooding across secondary roads. For what was coming in here, it could have been worse, but we had tried to prepare for the very worst because there was a possibility of it coming in here at a Cat-4. And now what we do is we just got to go. We're already on the recovery phase and that's what we're shooting for."
More than 560-thousand utility customers in North Carolina are waiting for their power to be restored in the wake of the storm. Progress Energy is responsible for about 183-thousand of those outages. Progress Energy spokeswoman Julia Millstead says conditions were too dangerous yesterday for crews to get out and assess the damage. She says linemen will be out today working to restore power as quickly as possible.
Authorities are attributing at least two deaths in North Carolina to the storm. A 15-year old girl in Goldsboro was killed in a car crash at an intersection where traffic lights were out. And a Nash County man was killed by a falling tree limb outside his home.