Irene, the first big hurricane to make landfall in North Carolina since Isabel in 2002 has come and gone. Thankfully, like Bonnie in 1998, a once fearsome category 4 storm that was larger than three states, Irene weakened as its outer northeast quadrant began to touch land and turned a potentially catastrophic hurricane into a troublesome one. Still, it’s important to remember that a large category 1 storm left 25 dead along its path and billions in damages. Message to people: Get out of the way when a storm like this one is about to land and stay out of the way until it’s gone.
This will be remembered as the storm that trudged up I-95 to New York City and beyond. The media hype for it was nearly as large as the storm itself.
Here in Alamance County, there was very little to report. Even our rainfall was microscopic. That led one friend of mine to observe that apparently there is a dome over Alamance County these days when it comes to rainfall. We remain in a pretty serious drought. Irene brought no relief at all on that score.
Along the coast, though, it was a major event.
My friends at my former newspaper the Jacksonville Daily News did an outstanding job covering a storm that arrived in their back yard — making landfall Saturday morning at Cape Lookout. A continuing hurricane blog was a highlight of their coverage throughout the day and into Sunday. Their reporters and photographers remained busy even though nearly all were without power. The newspaper wisely published its Saturday and Sunday editions on Friday before the storm arrived in full.
Luckily, the Daily News office had power restored in time to produce a Monday newspaper with full Hurricane Irene coverage. We weren’t sure that would be the case. The contingency plan was for a couple of Daily News copydesk staffers to come here to Burlington and produce an eight-page edition for Jacksonville as well as our company’s newspapers in Kinston and New Bern. We were set up to help them pull it off if needed — but thankfully, they didn’t have to do it.
Take it from me, such an operation is pretty back-breaking.
All in all, great work under very trying circumstances by a dedicated group of people downeast. I salute them.
Other Irene observations
1. I was annoyed by the national coverage of Irene, which bordered on hysterical — and that’s when they weren’t getting it completely wrong. The online Daily Beast, for example, reported that there was a fatality in Rocky Mountain North Carolina.
Get it right or go home.
And isn’t it about time that every half-baked local TV station call a moratorium on the obligatory shot of a reporter standing in 80 mph wind hanging on to a telephone pole?
2. Quite a few people called over the weekend to tell us they watched power crews in trucks headed east down the interstate. Some were from Kentucky, others from Georgia. On Sunday, Duke Energy deployed a crew from Charlotte. During storms or other major power-zapping events, electric companies join forces and head to the impacted areas. Should we get an ice storm, for example, crews from Georgia and Florida would advance on Alamance County.
Nice to know.
3. Brian Ewing of Burlington sent me an e-mail this morning. Said his mother recorded a wind gust of 50.2 mph at her home on Maple Avenue — pretty impressive mark so far from the center of the storm.
4. Saturday we struggled to keep up with the changing story online as Irene moved up I-95. I had online content editor put up a gallery of available photos on our site. One reader expressed her thanks.
I want to commend Joe, Roger, and Tom for the ease of viewing the pictures on the website.
I have been looking at pictures of Hurricane Irene damage from Wilmington TV sites. On one site, I cannot even get to the pictures. Some sites have a large window for the picture, but the info is at the small window below so it will not fit the screen at one time. Thanks for the large pictures with captions. The pictures are easy to find and the slide show is easy to use.
This is my hometown newspaper and I am proud of it and the website.