Washington Post staff are filing reports about Hurricane Irene as she moves up the East Coast. Follow along here for the latest news affecting the Washington region.
12:20 a.m. Power outages in Va., D.C. and Md.
■ Pepco: About 66,000 outages
• D.C.: 6,800
• Prince George’s County: 47,000
• Montgomery County: 12,000
■ Dominion Power: 917,000 in Va. and N.C.
• Northern Virginia: 29,000
• Richmond: 377,000
• Southeastern Virginia: 375,000
■ Baltimore Gas and Electric: About 117,000
• Anne Arundel: 66,853
• Calvert: 5,000
• Howard: 2,500
• Montgomery: 400
• Prince George’s County: 7,900
11:36 p.m. D.C. water is still flowing
Tweet from @mydcwater: “DC, you're still good to use water and flush. All of our facilities still operational; crews still in field”
11:10 p.m. Update on tornado in Lewes, Del.
Sussex County spokesman Chip Guy said a tornado was reported to have landed in Nassau, Del., outside of Lewes. Guy said between 15 to 17 houses were damaged by the apparent tornado. He said no one was injured.
Lewes was under a partial evacuation, Guy said. Brian Sealander, a spokesman for Delaware Gov. Jack Markell wrote in an e-mail that the governor had spoken to some owners of the damaged homes. Sealander wrote that some of the homeowners had heeded the evacuation order, telling the governor that they were not in Sussex County during the storm.
A second member of the governor’s staff, Cathy Rossi, wrote in an e-mail that up to 30 homes may have been damaged by the tornado. Rossi said the tornado was reported to have landed at 6:30 p.m.
Witnesses reported a funnel touching down in Lewes, said Guy, and that first responders with the Lewes Fire Company were on hand soon after. More houses may be damaged, Guy said, and that daylight will bring a more complete assessment.
11:10 p.m. 80 mph winds pounding Md. coast
At 11 p.m., Irene was 70 miles south-southwest of Ocean City, Md. Wind gusts reached 80 mph with the waterlevel at the Chesapeake Bay tunnel at levels as high as Isabel.
10:58 p.m. Constitution Ave. reportedly blocked
Constitution Ave. is reportedly closed between 2nd St. NE and 1st St. NW due to tree down, according to DDOTDC.
10:56 p.m. Flash flood warning extended in D.C. area
The flash flood warning for Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties has been extended until 2:00 a.m.
10:49 p.m. Md. Gov. concerned about urban flooding
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said that based upon Saturday night’s most recent briefings, he expects storm surges in the Chesapeake Bay of less than 3 feet, far less than Isabel produced in 2003.
That should be good news for the harbors in both Annapolis and Baltimore, he said.
Richard Muth. executive director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said during the same 9:30 p.m. briefing that his “main concern” at this point is urban flooding produced by Hurricane Irene’s torrential rains.
“We really won’t know the effects of this storm until the sun comes up tomorrow,” Muth said.
O’Malley said that Maryland has not closed any major roads but that the Bay Bridge is shut down due to high winds.
“Ocean City will get pounded,” O’Malley said. “The beaches will get pounded.”
10:44 p.m. Fairfax orders no parking on emergency routes
From @fairfaxcounty: “No parking on emergency routes: Backlick, 236, West Ox, G’town Pike, 7, 29, 50 and more.See full list at here.
10:42 p.m. Traffic lights out in MoCo
From @MontgomeryCoMD: “Traffic signals out at Rt. 108 and Dr. Bird, Old Baltimore, Brooke, Norwood, Sherwood HS, and Old Vic; and Lincoln and Old Georgetown Rd.”
9:55 p.m. Updated power outage numbers
Utility employees worked quickly to restore power outages Saturday night, but thousands of homes and businesses were still out of power as heavy wind and rain from Hurricane Irene battered the Washington area.
More than 52,000 customers in Anne Arundel County were out of power as of 10 p.m., according to Baltimore Gas and Electric, which also reported 12,000 outages in the Baltimore area. Overall, some 76,500 BGE customers were out of power. But the company reported that it had managed to restore power to more than 25,000 customers since the storm began Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, more than 4,000 District customers were out of power, according to Pepco. But that was less than half of outage numbers reported earlier Saturday.
More than 30,000 outages were reported in Prince George’s County, while another 1,000 in Montgomery County. In Virginia, Dominion Resources was reporting nearly 900,000 outages, including about 28,000 in northern Virginia.
Outages were expected to increase throughout the night as the storm drew closer to the region.
·Pepco: Nearly 31,000
·Dominion: 880,000 in Va and N.C.
—Northern Va.: 27, 800
—Richmond, Va.: 375,900
—Southeastern Va.: 336, 172
·BGE: about 75,000
—Anne Arundel: 52, 000
9:50 p.m. Pepco reports 30,000 customers without power
Pepco is reporting reports 30,000 customers without power now.
RT @maraley: “Power out now in entire neighborhood of S Arlington, 1 mile W of Crystal City”
9:47 p.m. New flash flood warning in MoCo, Howard
There is a new flash flood warning for Montgomery County, Howard County and to the northeast.
From the National Weather Service: “BANDS OF MODERATE RAINFALL MOVING INTO AREAS NORTH AND WEST OF BALTIMORE AND WASHINGTON. RAIN AMOUNTS SO FAR HAVE BEEN AROUND ONE INCH. RAINFALL UP TO A HALF INCH PER HOUR IS EXPECTED FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL HOURS.”
9:42 p.m. Shelter at Baden Fire Station moved after generator failure
The shelter at the Baden Fire and EMS Station, at 16608 Brandywine Rd., in Baden, has been closed a generator There were few occupants in the shelter at the time, according to a statement from Prince George’s County.
The shelter is being moved to the Brandywine Fire and EMS Station at 14201 Brandywine Road, in The Bunker Hill Fire Station #55, at 3716 Rhode Island Ave., in Brentwood, Md., remains
9:35 p.m. Mayor Gray updates on D.C. conditions
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray thanked District residents for cooperating with weather conditions and staying
“People have heeded the and people have been staying off the streets. I really congratulate the people of the city for paying heed to that,” Gray said.
Gray said libraries and the Department of Motor Vehicles 3 p.m. because weather conditions worsened.
Pepco doubled the number of people in their call and added 1,000 crews. Crews restored about 2,000 customers around 7 p.m., Gray said.
Metro officials said services are running on and there are no plans to curtail service, Gray said.
City officials received a spike in 311 calls for sandbags early and Gray said some people were “festive” as they waited in line, as sandbags were given out until 3 p.m.
Gray said 19 trees had fallen by about 9 p.m. and only a few traffic signals were not working.
“We think we are ready for any eventuality, but one never knows in this kind of situation,” Gray said.
City officials said that and have crews on standby in low-lying areas and will have work crews ready start clearing debris from roadways early Sunday.
“I just want to say how much I appreciate the people who work and who are involved with this,” Gray
— Clarence F Williams
9:33 p.m. Tornado touches down in Delaware
The National Weather Service reports a tornado has touched down in Lewes, DE, damaging 15 structures
9:28 p.m. Amtrak suspends service through Sunday
Amtrak has suspendd all service for the Northeast and Keystone corridors, the Keystone line and other routes through Sunday.
9:25 p.m. Trees fallen in D.C. from Irene’s winds
The District Department Of Transportation is reporting 19 trees or branches that have fallen in D.C. from tropical storm-force winds. DDOT crews are working to remove them.
9:17 p.m. McDonnell: Worst on the way for Hampton Roads
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said the worst may be on the way for Hampton Roads as concern shifts from high winds to tidal flooding.
“This period of time right now and over the next couple of hours will be some of the most dangerous for southeast Virginia with this storm,” McDonnell said. “We expect a much higher level of storm surge than previously predicted.”
Because of combined high tides and winds, he said the storm surge was predicted to be 5 to 8 feet.
“That would put the storm surge higher than Isabel and in fact higher than the 1933 storm that did tremendous damage in Hampton Roads,” McDonnell said.
The areas of greatest concern for “significant flooding” are the Elizabeth, Nansemond and James rivers, he said.
He said there have been numerous reports of sustained winds of as much as 75 mph in Virginia Beach, and other gusts of as much as 71 mph in Richmond nearly a 100 miles away.
“Keep in mind this hurricane has a very wide eye,” McDonnell said. “The storm surge is very dangerous. Of course, we urge nobody go down to the water right now because it’s extremely, extremely dangerous.”
He said about 283,000 people are without power in Hampton Roads.
About 9 inches of rain – with perhaps as much as 15 inches of rain – are expected in Hampton Roads, he said. Some areas in the Route 64 corridor have already received 16 inches of rain.
“This is a very dangerous situation,” he said.
8:59 p.m. Pepco customers lose power in D.C., Md.
With Hurricane Irene beginning to douse the District on Saturday evening, the region’s biggest power provider scrambled to show it had learned from prior mistakes.
More than 30,000 Pepco customers had lost power by 9 p.m. Saturday, including about 7,000 in the District and 21,500 in Prince George’s County. The rest were in Montgomery County. More outages were expected later.
Bob Hainey, a Pepco spokesman, declined to say whether the outages were more or less than the company had anticipated.
After more than a year of criticism and reviews by utility regulators regarding Pepco’s poor record of reliability, its officials acknowledged Friday that the storm would be a major “test.”
Hainey would not say if he thought his company was passing the test Saturday evening. But he said that “reliability enhancement” changes made over the past year had made Pepco more equipped to handle Irene.
“We would expect that the work we’ve done over the last year would have an impact,” he said. “But it’s not over yet. It’s not over yet. The storm is just starting.”
Another company spokeswoman, Tosha O’Neal, announced on Twitter at about 8 p.m. that Pepco the company had decided to stop providing customers with estimated times of power restoration “due to the magnitude of the storm.”
While safety regulations prevent Pepco from sending out crews to work on power lines while winds are above 35 miles an hour, the company managed to address several outage issues as heavy rain and winds hit the District on Saturday night.
Reports about the company on Twitter were mostly positive.
“Pepco is good in my book, my power already back on.” tweeted Queen Travers, an AmeriCorps member in Clinton, Md., after her power was restored in 90 minutes.
“I think they did an excellent job giving such a swift response considering the number of power outages in the area,” Travers said in an interview. “I’m very grateful.”
Other customers were not so happy.
“The fact that the power went down before the storm hit full force shows Pepco isn’t doing a good job,” said, Jeff Gates, a District resident who lost power at 5:30 p.m. and was still in the dark more than three hours later. “And most importantly, there’s absolutely no feedback as to what they’re doing to restore power. None.”
8:46 p.m. Dominion: Power outages have been higher than expected
Power outages in Virginia caused by Hurricane Irene have been higher than expected, a spokeswoman for the Dominion Power Company said Saturday night.
More than 800,000 homes and businesses serviced by Dominion were out of power as of 8:30 p.m., said Daisy Pridgen, a company spokeswoman.
“We were prepared for a huge amount of outages,” said Pridgen, “and this has definitely exceeded expecations.”
That number is still far short of the impact of the 2003 Hurricane Isabel, which knocked out power to 1.8 million customers — almost all of the 2.3 million homes and businesses that the company services.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell tweeted at 8 p.m. that overall, “close to 2 million power without power in Virginia.”
In Maryland, about 75,000 customers were out of power, mostly in Anne Arundel County, according to numbers provided by Baltimore Gas and Electric. More than 5,000 outages were reported in the Baltimore area and nearly 4,000 in Calvert County. About 7,500 homes and businesses were out of power in the District.
Overall, outages in the District, Maryland and Virginia were approaching 900,000 and expected to increase.
8:40 p.m. Roads closed in Montgomery County
On its twitter account Montomery County announced that Little Falls Parkway, Beach Drive and Sligo Creek Parkway are closed.
8:33 p.m. Hurricane Irene bears down on Virginia Beach
After slowly making its way up the East Coast, Hurricane Irene is now bearing down on Virginia Beach and other parts of eastern Virginia.
By around 7 p.m., the sea was a frothy jumble of white caps that lapped at the beach’s boardwalk with high tide still surging. Old-timers say they have never seen storms wash over the boardwalk, but the surf inched closer, rising up the access ramps on the beach.
Farther out, huge waves rolled under a pier extending into the water. Some thrillseekers, wearing goggles and windbreakers plastered to their skin, clung to the rail for a closer look. A frazzled-looking pigeon, hunkered down on the handicap ramp and unable to fly, was caught in the surf and then rescued by two men who carried it to the shelter of a hotel doorway.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell spoke to the media at 8 p.m. He said 325 Virginia National Guard members have been mobilized. He has also authorized local jurisdictions to impose overnight curfews, and several Hampton Roads jurisdictions, including Newport News, have already done so.
About five homes in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach have been damaged by microbursts, he said. Local news also reported that Sandbridge Road has been closed.
8:20 p.m. Va. governor confirms 3 deaths, asks for mandatory curfews
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said Irene has claimed three lives in the state -- in Newport News, New Brunswick and Chesterfield County.. He said all three were related to fallen trees.
McDonnell said Irene continues to be a “dangerous and catastrophic storm.”
He said 796,959 customers are without power, which translates to more than 2 million people (as of 8 p.m.). Of the nearly 800,000, 296,000 are in Hampton Roads, 350,000 in the Richmond metro area and 21,000 in Northern Virginia.
McDonnell said it will be “days or more” before power is restored.
McDonnell said he has authorized localities to issue curfews. Already, Newport News and Hampton have done so.
As of 8 p.m., 74 shelters are open around the state with 3,947 people staying in them. The shelters can house 26,000. This is a correction from an earlier number he gave.
McDonnell said 100 roads in the state are closed.
He said flooding due to storm surges and high tide will be worse than Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and a dangerous 1933 storm.
8:05 p.m. Tangier, Smith islands shrinking under rising sea levels
Rising waters in the Chesapeake Bay are a particular threat to the bay’s only remaining inhabited islands, Tangier Island in Virginia and Smith Island in Maryland. Both are marshy watermen’s outposts, which have already shrunk to a fraction of their former size because of rising sea levels.
On Tangier Island, town councilman Tommy Eskridge said that from 200 to 300 of the 500 total residents had evacuated to the mainland ahead of the storm. As of 7:45 p.m. Saturday, water had crept up 50 feet on shore in some places. But Eskridge said that the island still had power and water service, and that no houses were in imminent danger of flooding. In the last few years, he said, many of them had been lifted several feet to prepare for rising waters.
“We’ve been pretty blessed so far,” Eskridge said in a phone interview. But he noted that the tide around the island was still rising, and the hurricane was still on the way.
“It’s gonna be up there,” he said of the water level. “It’s gonna be close, I’m sure.”
In Tylerton, Md., one of the three small villages on Smith Island, resident Edward Smith said that most people had evacuated. At 8 p.m. Saturday, he said the water was up but that no houses had been flooded so far.
“It’s pretty wet. Everybody’s evacuated, all but 11 of us,” Smith said in a telephone interview. He said that, so far, the high water was not nearly as bad as it had been in Hurricane Isabel, in 2003. “We’re making out pretty good.”
The lights were still on, Smith said. But he thought that might not last. “They’re starting to blink a little bit.”
7:51 p.m. Power outage count in D.C. area
●D.C.: More than 6,500
●Prince George’s County: 15,000
●Anne Arundel: 10,000
Expect these numbers to rise as we head into the windiest period of the storm now into the overnight.
7:40 p.m. Bay Bridge is closed
The Bay Bridge was ordered closed at 7:35 p.m. Saturday due to severe winds and unsafe driving conditions, the Maryland Transportation Authority announced.
The bridge is experiencing sustained winds of more than 62 mph with gusts of 72 to 80 miles per hour and will remain closed until conditions are deemed safe, officials said.
7:26 p.m. Residents choose to stay at Rehoboth Beach
Dewey Beach Police Department Sgt. Cliff Dempsey said officers had counted 29 individuals who chose to remain in town during Hurricane Irene’s approach.
Rehoboth Beach Police Department Chief Keith Banks estimated perhaps 50 people remained in town as hurricane Irene approaches.
Earlier in the day officers went door-to-door in neighborhoods to ensure residents heeded Delaware Gov. Jack Markell’s mandatory evacuation order.
Those who elected to stay were required to give their full names and social security numbers in the event of an emergency. Banks said he has about 11 officers on duty for the storm.
He said he expects the storm to peak beginning after 9 p.m. and continue into early Sunday morning. The most dangerous effect of the hurricane will be flooding, Banks said.
Dempsey said no major flooding has occurred thus far.
Rehoboth Beach Emergency Medical Technician Terri Willey said there had been two 911 calls in the town. An amubulance met a resident in town for an ailment unrelated to the storm, and a fire engine was deployed to Angola, where a tree had fallen onto a power line.
7:26 p.m. Storm surge of 4 feet reported at Bay
A storm surge of four feet has been reported at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Winds from the north-northeast are helping to damper the surge up the bay and the Potomac River.
7:23 p.m. D.C. mayor urges families to seek help
Mayor Vincent C. Gray, in an interview with CNN, told residents to dial 311 if they find themselves in distress.
7:19 p.m. D,.C. appears deserted as Irene approaches
As Hurricane Irene closed in on the Washington area, downtown D.C. appeared mostly deserted Saturday evening. Rain was coming down in sheets and wind threatened to reverse umbrellas, but the urban flooding predicted had not hit L Street NW and the surrounding area.
Although earlier reports of a 7 p.m. curfew turned out to be false, city residents seemed to be under a self-inflicted house arrest. Businesses had mostly closed for the day, but the Post Pub bar on 15th and L streets NW was open, serving a handful of customers.
Inside the women’s bathroom, it is raining.
“Welcome to the hurricane party,” cheered one man as he downed the final dregs of a beer before heading out into the rain, leaving behind a single customer and two couples who were ignorning the weather coverage broadcast on the flat-screen TVs mounted above the bar.
7:09 p.m. Update on wind gusts in D.C.
National Airport is reporting wind gusts of 45 mph. Andrews Airforce Base reporting gusts as high as 43 - 45 mph.
7:07 p.m. Ocean City police no longer patrolling
Ocean City police have been ordered off the streets as Hurricane Irene approaches the city, flooding the roads. They will continue to respond to emergency calls. Reports are coming in that hotel rooms are leaking and ceilings are coming down.
7:03 p.m. Metro not planning to close early
WMATA is dispelling rumors that D.C.’s transit system will close early tonight, tweeting “despite rumors to the contrary, Metro is *not* planning to close early. If anything changes with service, we’ll let you know.”
6:58 p.m. Flood warnings for Baltimore
The flash flood warnings continue to multiply, with the latest around Baltimore and to the northeast, until 12:15 a.m.
6:48 p.m. Flood warnings for St. Mary’s, Calvert
Flood warnings have been issued for St. Mary’s and Calvert counties until 12:30 a.m. These areas have already gotten between 4-7 inches of rain. Streams are rising, escalating the risk.
6:38 p.m. Three new shelters open up in D.C.
Emergency shelters are being opened at Emery, Turkey Thicket and Benning-Stoddert recreation centers at 7:30 p.m. for displaced residents, according to an alert from the District’s homeland security agency. Kennedy Recreation Center opened earlier Saturday.
6:38 p.m. Tornado sirens in Rehoboth Beach
Sirens and “Seek Shelter Now” messages are being played over the loudspeaker system that Rehoboth Beach’s city manager has said was never used before today.
This is the third time the sirens have gone off today.
6:35 p.m. Traffic accidents in Virginia
Virginia State Police responded to 152 traffic crashes and 83 disabled vehicles between 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday.
An accident in Brunswick County has resulted in one death and is still under investigation.
6:30 p.m. Update on wave surges at Rehoboth Beach
Ocean surf is now up to the dunes at Rehoboth Beach, and only 10 yards from the boardwalk. The waves seem to peak at around eight feet. There are no reports of power outages at beach, although widespread outages have occurred already in Sussex County, officials have said on Twitter.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell announced a new hurricane shelter has opened at the Sussex Technical High School on US-9 West near Georgetown, Del. Those seeking to stay in a hurricane shelter are exempt from the driving restriction order.
A Sussex County spokesman announced on twitter that the Beacon Middle School shelter had reached capacity earlier this evening.
Roads have begun to flood. The governor announced a driving restriction in Sussex County effective at 6 p.m.
6:26 p.m. Road blocked in Woodbridge
Prince William County officials said Carroll Avenue in Woodbridge is blocked due to a fallen wire.
County officials said a tree fell on the power line, bringing it down. There are no reports of a power outage due to the fallen wire as of 6 p.m.
6:21 p.m. Reports of looting at Virginia Beach
Police arrested two people for looting about 4 p.m. Saturday in the Sandbridge section of Virginia Beach, city spokeswoman Mary Hancock said.
Police received a report of intruders in an unoccupied, damaged house about 3:50 p.m. and detained two people about 20 minutes later, she said. Further details were not yet available.
6:13 p.m. Looking ahead for the D.C. area forecast
The strongest winds and heaviest rainfall should occur around D.C. between 8 p.m. - 2 a.m. Around the D.C. metro region, rain should really taper off between pre-dawn and mid-morning on Sunday with the sun coming out in the afternoon.
6:10 p.m. Capital Bikeshare closes
The District Department of Transportation announced that Capital Bikeshare will shut down new rentals at 6 p.m.
DDOT said it will inform members when the system is up and running again.
6:03 p.m. Rainfall estimates
From Capital Weather Gang: Rainfall is expected to be around 1 inch in the District and east and southeast Fairfax Co.Prince George’s County should expect 1 - 3 inches and southern Maryland should plan for 2-4 inches.
5:54 p.m. Prince William County woman injured
Prince William County officials said a woman in Dale City broke her leg Saturday when a tree fell on her.
County officials said the accident happened in the Forestdale neighborhood of Dale City. The woman, whose age and name is not being released, was walking outside when a tree uprooted and hit her around 5 p.m. She was transported to an area hospital.
County officials said as winds increase and the ground becomes more saturated with water, the risk of falling trees increases. County officials said they are asking people to remain indoors and away from windows until the storm passes.
5:54 p.m. D.C. Mayor quashes rumor of curfew
The D.C. Department of Homeland Security agency moved quickly Saturday evening to quash an Internet rumor that the Mayor Vincent C. Gray was imposing a 7 p.m. curfew due to Hurricane Irene.
The agency issued a statement shortly before 6 p.m. clarifying that Gray never considered a curfew.
5:47 p.m. Flash floods in DC
There is a flash flood warning until 11:30 p.m. through the core of the D.C. metro area. This includes D.C., southeastern Howard, southeastern Montgomery, northwestern Anne Arundel, northern Prince George’s, northeastern Stafford, Arlington, southeastern Prince William and Fairfax counties, southeastern City of Manassas Park, City of Alexandria, City of Fairfax and City of Falls Church.
For more on this, visit Capital Weather Gang.
4:44 p.m. Rehoboth Beach nearly deserted after mandatory evacuation
Rehoboth Beach city manager Greg Ferrese said that the mandatory evacuation instituted in this small beach town is the first to occur in more than 25 years.
The preparation for Hurricane Irene began earlier this week, Ferrese said. Town workers removed unsecured trash cans and newspaper machines. They cleaned out storm drains of debris, including leaves and pine needles, and sharpened the blades and sawteeth on power tools for branch cutting.
Ferrese said he has called in a snow plow and front-end loader to remove fallen trees from the roads.
Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks said conditions will worsen throughout the night. He said that the storm will be 30 miles off the coast when it hits Rehoboth Beach and that winds in the town will blow at sustained speeds up to 50 miles per hour.
Compared to year’s past, Ferrese said the preparations for Irene have been more thorough. Town employees have removed heavy, sturdy benches that usually remain no matter what the weather. The life guard stands have been removed from the beaches and locked into a town impound.
The town one-mile board walk was completely replaced using Obama administration stimulus money. Ferrese said the $6 million dollar project replaced all of the old pilings with new ones sunk with concrete.
The town of Rehoboth Beach is 1 square mile and there are 1,300 permanent residents, Ferrese said. As of this evening the town is nearly deserted.
On a busy shift for the Rehoboth Beach Emergency Medical personnel there will be up to 25 phone calls during a 24 hour shift. In the past two days there have only been two calls, which EMS administrator Sean Humphreys attributed to the evacuation.
Rehoboth Postmaster Richard DeWitt said 25 percent of the day’s mail was delivered before he called his drivers off their routes due to tornado warnings.
4:36 p.m. A pirate by day
The lone figure in the black hooded jacket watched as the waves rumbled onto the sand. G.W. Blake was the only person on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk at 11:15 am as the rain soaked the beach and wind gusts kicked up large blotches of foam. Blake needed a smoke break.
Wearing flip-flops and a thin rain-jacket, Blake lit a cigarette, fitting the filter between his scruffy red mustache and wispy goatee.
“I’m a pirate by day and fry cook by night,” said Blake, 47. He’s been around Rehoboth for 32 years. “I’ve never seen the town evacuated. It’s empty.”
In Lewes, he works on a masted “pirate” ship, taking kids on tours for sunken treasure and adults on pirate-themed booze cruises. At night he works in the kitchen -- “Say galley” he says, “It sounds more pirate.” -- at Irish Eyes, a restaurant in Lewes.
“I hope the pirate boat is there the time this is over,” he said.
4:28 p.m. Annapolis hunkers down
Stores and kiosks closed one by one at the Westfield Annapolis Mall as the number of people dwindled to mostly uniformed freshmen from the U.S. Naval Academy who were running out of places to go but were loath to give up their weekend passes and return to the dormitory.
Closer to the Chesapeake Bay, Michael Marvin, who moved from the District to within 100 feet of the water just days before Hurricane Isabel hit in 2003, hunkered down as the day’s grayness turned to dusk Saturday.
“Fill the tubs, replace the batteries, clear the outside drains, charge the phones and wait,” Marvin said at his home just north of Annapolis. “As tough as this is, the surge seems likely to be nowhere near the catastrophic levels of Isabel.”
Despite heavy seas, rain, and strong gusts of wind, Rehoboth Beach Patrol lifeguards trained in the ocean this morning for “rough water” rescues.
The 21 members on duty this morning swam about 30 to 40 yards out into the water before swimming back in. The practice should help the life guards prepare for difficult swimming conditions, said chief life guard Ray Tartal, 26.
He’s been a life guard in Rehoboth Beach for 10 years. Due to the deteriorating surf conditions, the lifeguards went off-duty at 11 a.m., Tartal said.
Life guard Rob Witsil turned 60 today and said the ocean was choppy but manageable for the experienced swimmers.
“Come Monday the seas may still be rough,” said Tartal. “This practice helps us get associated before the storm comes.”
3:33 p.m. Irene closes in on Elizabeth City, N.C.
Driving rains and howling winds intensified at mid-day in Elizabeth City, N.C., as Hurricane Irene closed in on this small town on the state’s northeastern coast.
Power outages lasting over three hours had already hit some blocks during the morning. Trees had fallen over on the road leading to Elizabeth City State University. TV signals were down. Almost all the stores were closed, except for one small express-mart with boarded-up windows.
Many residents from the Outer Banks, a small thread of islands just off North Carolina’s coast, had checked into the hotels here over the last two days in the hope of escaping the brunt of the hurricane. However, looking around today, they weren’t sure if they were much better off for having moved 40 miles west.
A mandatory evacuation order is in place on the Outer Banks, a popular tourist destination, although some residents have stayed behind.
“When they even tell the residents to leave, and not just the tourists, that’s kind of a big deal,” said Russell Nesseltree, 35, who had decamped to a hotel in Elizabeth City with his mother. “It’s scary when you live on a small island.”
Nesseltree’s hotel was one of the buildings that had been without power for hours this morning.
“We thought it would be nicer here,” he said. “We thought, ‘we’ll have a weekend in a hotel, with power, with internet’. It didn’t turn out quite how we thought it would.”
2:00 p.m. Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel closed
Stoplights swung, trees heaved and small trees were bent to the ground as heavy rains and wind in the leading edge of Hurricane Irene began whipping Virginia Beach on Saturday morning. By noon, streets were mostly empty except for police and some other vehicles and a few thrillseekers on foot.
Citing heavy winds and tides, the Virginia Department of Transportation also closed the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, which carries Interstate 64 into Norfolk, as of 11 a.m. VDOT said the bridge would remain closed through the duration of the storm. Officials also closed the Midtown Tunnel, which crosses the main channel of the Elizabeth River and connects Portsmouth and Norfolk.
Virginia Beach officials closed all public beaches, opened five shelters, and ordered mandatory evacuations for Sandbridge and Knotts Island beaches. By noon, about 1,100 customers lost power, city officials said.
But many people were still out in vehicles and on foot for most of the morning, whether for a lark or last-minute grocery runs.
Ring Giles, a retired hotel manager, popped into a 7-Eleven to buy some local newspapers as rain slanted through the convenience store’s door. Giles said his home had lost power by midmorning, so he checked into a hotel, planning to watch TV as long as the power lasted.
Noel Layao, 49, the 7-Eleven franchisee, said customers had cleaned him out of coffee and ice by mid-morning. “There are still a lot of people coming,” he said. He planned to close at noon.
A few blocks away at another 7-Eleven, Doug Franzese, 61, a security guard, said the store would remain open as long as there was power.
“I saw a lot worse,” said Franzese, who had to duck into a supply room out of the wind to light a cigarette. “But it’s early yet.”
Closer to the beach, surf roared, blasting a spray of water and stinging sand a block westward. Wind drove an amusement park’s seatless ferris wheel in circles.
In the parking lot of a hotel on the boardwalk, Jay and Ashley Davis parked their minivan near the beach so their daughters – Hunter, 12; Sydney, 8; and Bailey, 5 – could see for themselves what a tropical storm felt like. The girls exited, struggled to walk into the driving wind, and scurried back.
“We like to come out and show the kids,” Ashley Davis, 38, said.
Show over, they piled back into their minivan to return home, which was stocked with a generator and other supplies.
At the Holiday Inn and Suites North Beach, which is on the boardwalk, workers were filling sandbags. Inside, a small staff sat down to a buffet brunch, preparing to ride out the storm. Jack Zimmerman, the manager, said 19 guests had stayed on.
Willie Long, a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, went about his usual rounds, though wetter than usual, somewhat to the surprise of customers.
“They have two views: one is, ‘You’re crazy.’ The other is, ‘Kudos,’” Long said.
Meanwhile, firefighters, who have been battling a smoky fire in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge since lightning struck there three weeks ago, hope Hurricane Irene’s rain will finally douse the flames. But it could also create new problems too, by toppling trees that impede their return, The Virginian-Pilot reported on Saturday. The newspaper said emergency personnel, who have contained only a little more than a third of the blaze so far, packed up almost all their gear and moved out as the tropical storm approached. The swamp is located southwest of the city between Suffolk and Chesapeake.
12:15 p.m. Shops in Alexandria stock up on sandbags
The maintenance crews placed “Do Not Enter” signs a block away from the port and Old Town store managers laid sandbags in front of storefronts. But bubbles from the bubble machine still floated from the Ben & Jerry’s store onto King Street, like they do every week.
“I’ve seen some bad floods in this area, but I’m not incredibly worried,” said Steve Brown, the store manager. “So right now, we’re operating as normal, taking it hour-by-hour.”
Brown had placed five sandbags along his steps on Saturday morning. In case of power outage, Brown was preparing for a shipment of 200 pounds of dry ice to keep his ice cream frozen.
Those strolling through Old Town Alexandria were responding with calm to the impending storm. Foot traffic at a hardware store was steady. A sales attendant laid out the few emergency items on a table - three boxes of matches, a single 9 volt battery, two ponchos. They were gone in minutes.
Some 21 types of flashlights were listed in aisle 11. Not a single one was left.
“It’s so funny, we got a delivery early Friday morning,” said store manager Al Watkins. “By 6:30 (Friday night), everything was gone.”
So were the generators. And the oil lamps. And the D-batteries.
Along the brick-lined streets of Old Town, the Drennons and the Devines walked their dogs and sipped coffee and talked about the major acts of God of the week.
“I was more worried about the earthquake,” Cheryl Drennon told her friends, to their laughter. She recalled Hurricane Isabel, when three-foot high waters flowed from the port into the streets. Couples were kayaking to Starbucks.
“We have everything we need. Got some batteries for the flashlights. I didn’t buy any food or extra water, did you guys?”
Jim Devine did in fact make a run to do some wholesale shopping.
“The places was packed,” Devine said. “I did manage to get a generator.”
“He came home with a generator, two loaves of bread and a bottle of Captain Morgan’s,” his wife, Amy, added. Those were their preparations.
Across the street, the Virtue Feed & Grain restaurant placed 89 sandbags around the 200-year-old brick building. Inside was a beam with a 3-foot-high watermark that Manager Kati Pirner said came from Hurricane Isabel. The restaurant was advertising a “hurricane watch party” with “Irene Shandy’s” - Rolling Rock beer, with sprite and sours for $3 - as a way to keep spirits up.
They protected the basement by placing boards outside its windows. On the board, they wrote “The End is Near, But We’re Still Open.”