Hurricane Dennis finally departed the North Carolina coast today, leaving scattered flooding, some power outages, numerous unhappy fishermen, and a great deal of relief among residents and emergency officials who had half-feared the stubborn storm would never break up and go away.
In some areas of coastal Carteret County, near Cedar Island where the storm swept ashore late Saturday afternoon, roads were washed out and flood waters stood four feet deep. Two state roads in Pamlico County also were impassable, littered with abandoned vehicles, and the county's water system was flooded out. As many as 5,000 customers were without power across eastern North Carolina.
No serious injuries were reported. But investigators were still trying to determine today whether two traffic fatalities in Wilson County on Saturday night were weather-related, said 1st Sgt. Jeff Winstead of the State Highway Patrol. About 400 people spent Saturday night in 17 shelters opened in the storm area, he said.
"It has been quite a week," said Kathy McGehee of the state Department of Health and Human Services. "But basically, we just didn't have a lot of damage."
McGehee said the biggest victims of the storm may have been commercial fishermen, who lost their crab pots and nets to the gusting winds and pounding waters. "Each crab pot cost between $18 and $20 apiece, and I talked to several fishermen who have lost up to 600 each," she said. "What they call 'pound nets' cost $3,000 apiece and some lost as many as three of them."
Dennis, which swept up the coast last Monday with 100 mph winds, meandered offshore for nearly six days before picking up speed and turning inland Saturday as a tropical storm with winds of about 70 mph. Early today, it was downgraded to a tropical depression, its winds down to 35 mph. Nonetheless, it was still carrying enough rain--five to eight inches was forecast in some places--that it was expected to bring drought relief to the Washington area and as far north as New York.
Here on the Outer Banks, a brilliant sun shone today, although the sea was still turbulent.
On Ocracoke Island, motel owner David Esham could still see the downed trees and three feet of water in his yard, courtesy of Dennis's first visit. The second go-round on Saturday was not nearly as bad, he said.
"I'm from Ocracoke and I tell you, I've never seen a storm like this one, that just stayed and stayed and stayed," he said. "Hell, yeah, I'm glad to see it go."
CAPTION: Near Hobucken, N.C., a fishing boat sits where storm-caused flooding left it.