Once Irene departed and dawn broke, the evidence was stark: Hundreds of trees were down, and branches were strewn across local roads. Religious services were canceled as thousands lost power. Raw sewage spilled in some areas. But while the storm packed enough of a punch to leave nearly 20 dead along the East Coast, Irene did far less harm than predicted in a region that had been rattled by a rare earthquake and predictions of a potentially devastating hurricane.
“We really dodged a huge bullet,” said Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, who said the minor amount of standing water and isolated power outages in her area made it seem more like a strong, but normal, summer storm had just passed through.
As residents and government officials across the region began to assess damage and clean up debris, many said they were pleasantly surprised that it hadn’t been worse.
“Usually my basement floods,” Carlton Sharp of Bethesda’s Hillmead neighborhood said, remembering the mess Hurricane Isabel created eight years ago. “But this time, nothing.”
Many without power Sunday took advantage of the weather, which cleared throughout the day, to do what they couldn’t a day before.
In McLean, where several neighborhoods and subdivisions were without power, patrons at Salona Village Shopping Center restaurants said they had left home to get away from silence and the dark.
“Really, I needed to get out of the house after yesterday and all the talk about doom and gloom,” said Patsy Tanner, a retired social worker. “And look at it outside. It’s a new day.”
At the Bradlee Center on King Street in Alexandria, Tom and Alex Franklin took a break from a late morning bike ride to grab a water and Gatorade while they waited for the power to return to their South Arlington home.
At Starbucks, Jack Davis busily worked on his laptop on one screen while checking the Sunday newspapers on another at Starbucks. “On the scale of inconveniences, this is pretty low,” said Davis, a car salesman. “It’s a drag about power, but the weather today certainly helps make this easier to deal with.”
Shavonne Brown, 28, of Upper Marlboro said her family is probably going to move into a hotel until the power returns.
“The Amish life isn’t for us,” said Brown, a middle school teacher who lives with her parents. “No electricity. We can’t do it.”
The outage in her area, which started about 3 p.m. Saturday and continued throughout Sunday, forced Brown to cancel a late celebration of her birthday, which was Tuesday, the day of the earthquake.
Still, some were not faring well.
Geraldine Capehart lives on the 11th floor of Iverson Towers in Temple Hills. The earthquake had damaged picture frames and photographs in her place; on Saturday night, her carpet was soaked by water that leaked through cracks in the building caused by the quake.