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Flood Threat Continues, Much of Eastern N.C. Still Without Power

September 9, 1996

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Normalcy’s trappings are creeping back into North Carolina’s storm-thrashed inland communities: fallen tree limbs arranged at curbsides, power winking back on sporadically, gasoline being pumped again.

On the coast, resilience isn’t as easy to come by.

``It won’t be the same here for years,″ said Lorel Carroll of Burgaw, a hard-hit community about 15 miles from the coast. Trees felled by Hurricane Fran’s 100-plus-mph winds damaged her family’s deck, garage and pickup.

A second round of flooding vexed the coast after drenching rain that fell late Sunday. Streets in Wilmington were flooded again, and traffic backed up two miles.

Roads near the northeast Cape Fear River were submerged and impassable, and parts of the highway loop surrounding Raleigh were also under water. All told, Fran’s damage in North Carolina could reach into the billions, including an estimated $930 million in Wake County, which includes Raleigh.

The storm and its aftereffects killed at least 28 people _ 17 of them in North Carolina _ mostly by falling trees, flooding and traffic accidents. The Federal Emergency Management Agency declared 34 North Carolina counties disaster areas.

At least one person was still reported missing, a teen-ager who disappeared while swimming in a swollen creek.

On a muggy, torrid day that ushered in soaking thundershowers, people ventured out Sunday with rakes and chain saws, and utility and municipal crews and private tree-clearing contractors plied streets and back roads.

Marilyn Bara emerged from neighbor Richard Morrison’s suburban Raleigh house in a white bathrobe Sunday, having just indulged in a warm shower, courtesy of the Morrisons’ gas-fueled water heater.

``We’re a pretty together neighborhood to begin with, and now more so,″ Bara said. ``We’ve shared salmon and bagels. Now we’re sharing showers.″

Fran clobbered coastal North Carolina late Thursday and turned north, cutting a capricious swath of destruction as far inland as Raleigh and Winston-Salem before flooding Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.

The Potomac River flooded from West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle into downtown Washington, D.C., drowning many areas for the second time this year.

The Maryland Mass Transit Administration canceled all trains today on its Brunswick Line, which serves about 5,000 commuters daily along the river from Martinsburg, W.Va., into Washington.

Washington traffic was snarled this morning because of flooded streets and highways, although water was receding after the Potomac crested early today at 13.7 feet, nearly 7 feet above flood stage.

About 50 miles upstream from Washington, the Potomac reached the second story of homes at Point of Rocks, Md., when it crested Sunday at 36.3 feet, more than 20 feet above flood stage.

Point of Rocks residents had spent months rebuilding after January flooding. ``Tears aren’t going to make the water go away,″ said homeowner Al Woodson.

Farther upstream, rangers at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park had moved to safety 5,000 historical items, including Civil War swords and rifles and abolitionist John Brown’s family Bible. Water there at the point where the Potomac joins the Shenandoah was 11 above flood stage.

Power was spasmodic at best: North Carolina utilities reported more than 400,000 customers still without electricity this morning. More than 60,000 customers in Virginia were without power late Sunday.

Water and ice remained crucial commodities in North Carolina and lines formed at stores offering supplies _ many for free.

A dazed Glenn Sasser, a year-round resident, wandered the Surf City beach searching for his home.

``It’s just gone. I had an oceanfront house and now I can’t find it,″ Sasser said. ``I just bought the house in April.″

Though the coast was the most devastated, the Raleigh-Durham area, one of North Carolina’s most populous regions and a place accustomed to experiencing only the periphery of tropical storms, suffered major damage as well.

In suburban neighborhoods, roads were thick with branches and repair trucks, and residents busy cleaning up their property and themselves.

``We’re so sophisticated in this age of technology and science, but Mother Nature comes through and we’re back to 400 B.C.,″ said Linda Daigle, clearing foliage from her suburban Raleigh lawn.

Still, the odd advantage surfaced.

``We’re so happy,″ said Michaux Noah, who lives in the Raleigh neighborhood of Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. ``Our dogs haven’t figured out the electric fences aren’t working.″

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