Suffolk escapes Hanna

Published 6:50 pm Sunday, September 7, 2008

There were a handful of downed trees and power lines.

But Suffolk, like the rest of Hampton Roads, escaped Tropical Storm Hanna relatively unscathed early Saturday.

Hanna made landfall around 3 a.m. near Myrtle Beach, S.C., with outer bands of the storm pelting Hampton Roads with several hours of heavy rain and winds with gusts of nearly 50 miles per hour in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. The storm moved out by mid-afternoon, giving way to sunshine later in the day.

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Suffolk has received about 1.7 inches of rain over the past two days and had wind gusts that reached 37 mph in parts of the city, said city officials.

“We were fortunate,” said city spokeswoman Debbie George.

As of 3 p.m., the city had received about six reports of toppled trees and downed power lines, George said. There were no reports of high water or car accidents related to the storm.

Trees fell in the 6700 block of Whaleyville Boulevard, the 5400 block of Gardner Lane and in Chuckatuck, near the intersection of Kings Highway and Godwin Boulevard. Firefighters, police officers and public works crews were able to clear the blocked thoroughfares within a short time after arriving at the locations, George said.

Late yesterday afternoon, just 44 Dominion Virginia Power customers in Suffolk were still without power, said company spokesman Chuck Penn.

However, the company’s Chuckatuck region, which includes Isle of Wight County, Suffolk, Portsmouth and parts of Chesapeake, was among the hardest hit areas with more than 16,000 without power, he said.

All together, more than 110,000 Dominion customers in eastern North Carolina and Virginia lost their power as Hanna hit the two states Saturday, according to Penn. By midday, repair crews had restored electricity to more than 67,000 households.

Despite the outages, Hampton Roads fared pretty well in this storm, he said.

“We were blessed,” said Penn. “We were geared up for a full-fledged hurricane and this ended up being, more or less, a tree-and-line event.”

The city’s Emergency Operations Center, which was fully activated at 5 a.m. Saturday, closed by 2 p.m., George said. There were no reports of injuries or structural damage caused by the storm, she said.

“This turned out to be a good training opportunity,” said George. “We would rather be prepared and not need the services … than to not have had the resources in place should we have needed them.”