Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Weakened Bertha Heads for Virginia but Wind Is No Longer at Hurricane Force

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Weakened Bertha Heads for Virginia but Wind Is No Longer at Hurricane Force

Article excerpt

A weakened Bertha plowed north into Virginia on Saturday after crashing across North Carolina's coast and damaging what might have been a peak summer weekend in the Carolinas.

"Losing one day in July is an economic disaster," said John Bone, executive vice president of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.

Hurricane Bertha raked North Carolina's coastline Friday with winds gusting to 118 mph, pushing surging water over sand dunes and washing out beaches and piers, toppling trees and power lines and submerging scores of homes in seawater. About 250,000 vacationers abandoned beaches for safer land.

But by early Saturday, Bertha was downgraded to a tropical storm, its top sustained winds having dropped to 44 mph.

As of 3 a.m., the storm was about 45 miles southwest of Norfolk, Va., and quickly weakening as it aimed for Chesapeake Bay.

Torrential rain and wind gusts battered boarded up oceanfront cottages and businesses in Virginia Beach early Saturday.

Almost 5 inches of rain fell before midnight along Virginia's eastern shore. A tornado touched down in Smithfield, Va., damaging 15 to 16 homes along a half-mile path 100 yards wide, the National Weather Service said.

"All I could hear was like a freight train rolling through here," said David Sawyer, who watched as the tornado's winds turned his Smithfield neighborhood's stately trees to trash.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from Virginia to Massachusetts, and officials along the East Coast were preparing for minor flooding.

A motorist who ignored warnings to stay inside was killed Friday in a traffic accident in Kitty Hawk, N.C., the ninth death blamed on the storm. In New Jersey, a surfer was killed after the hurricane sent drenching rain and high winds up the East Coast.

In North Carolina, almost 400,000 were still without power Saturday, and inland hotels and shelters were filled with people who were forced off the beaches.

Bertha's winds snapped power poles and blew the roofs off numerous homes on the Emerald Isle, a sliver of land with clusters of beach cottages and rental condominiums that spans 25 miles between Camp LeJeune and Cape Lookout at the southern end of the Outer Banks. …

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