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Residents Get Power Back As Hortense Approaches East

September 13, 1996

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Block by block, house by house, lights came on to chase away darkness left a week ago by Hurricane Fran. But as storm-weary residents cleaned up, they feared the more dangerous Hurricane Hortense could give them another beating.

``Everybody’s just praying that it’s not going to come ashore,″ said Sheri Milholen of Siler City, about 50 miles west of Raleigh.

Hortense, with 140 mph winds, probably will miss the Southeast, forecasters said, but could cause heavy surf along the coast. The hurricane was headed toward eastern New England.

Sherry Tudor of Raleigh had more pressing things on her mind _ getting trees that had fallen during Fran off her house.

``I can’t worry about Hortense,″ she said. ``If it comes, it comes.″

Almost 100,000 North Carolina residents, most in the state’s eastern half, marked a week without power Thursday. However, crews had restored electricity to many others: Fran had knocked out power to about 1.7 million businesses and homes.

Thousands of homes have been without water and many residents are still cutting the trunks of collapsed trees off their smashed homes and cars. Millions of dollars in losses to homes, businesses and farms were being tallied.

Meanwhile, rising waters threatened to flood communities still waterlogged by Fran. About 500 families had fled their homes and hundreds more were threatened.

Water was waist-high on residential roads in Seven Springs, southeast of Raleigh and a few miles downstream from Goldsboro, where the Neuse River was 13 feet above flood stage.

In Mar Mac, just south of Goldsboro, car roofs peeked out from a swamp of coffee-colored water in flooding so extensive it was impossible to tell from a flyover where the river normally ran.

``People there are going to have more damage from the flood than they did from the hurricane,″ said Gov. Jim Hunt, who surveyed the damage from the air Thursday.

Randall Page of Raleigh, one of the residents who remained in the dark, called the power company’s hot line over and over. ``Busy, busy, busy,″ said Page, wearing a T-shirt that read: ``I’m retired. This is as dressed up as I get.″

His neighbor, Loretta Bragg, has no water. ``They talk about making the best of it, but I can’t flush my toilet,″ she said.

Some were more aggressive in seeking help. A hand-lettered sign with balloons hung on a fire hydrant, reminding power crews not to forget 16 families on a side street.

Susan Gaines got help from friends and neighbors who stored her frozen food and helped clean away 17 trees fallen in her yard and on the brick house.

Mrs. Gaines also discovered a new coffee recipe: ``You get water as hot as you can out of the faucet. Dump a bunch of grounds in and strain it through an old T-shirt. It’s not bad.″

Other residents, meanwhile, feared the damage Hortense could wreak from offshore.

``It wouldn’t take but a tropical storm to wipe this island out,″ said Michael Gagner of Surf City, on a coastal barrier island. ``Even if it comes 200 miles off shore, it’s going to throw waves in our streets again.″

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