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Merciful Earl mostly spares Suffolk

Published 11:41 am Friday, September 3, 2010

Hurricane Earl has came and went on Friday, with little to no damage in Suffolk.

According to measurements taken at the Suffolk Executive Airport, Earl brought .37 inches of rain on Friday morning. Wind speeds at the airport peaked at 25 miles per hour between 7 and 7:20 a.m.

“It deviated and shifted a few miles east last night,” Suffolk Emergency Coordinator Capt. Jim Judkins said Friday. “Now, it’s picking up more speed as it heads up north.”

According to city spokeswoman Debbie George, no major storm-related incidents were reported by the Suffolk Fire Department or Suffolk Public Works. The Suffolk Police Department reported a few minor accidents — “typical with any rainy day,” George said.

According to Dominion Power spokesman Chuck Penn, more than 2,000 customers were without power at 11 a.m. More than half of those customers were in the Outer Banks, but to his knowledge, no Suffolk residents had lost power due to the storm.

“Not nearly as many customers as we thought would lose power did,” Penn said. “We dodged a bullet.”

While thankful Earl wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, Judkins urged people not to become complacent about hurricanes.

“As emergency coordinators, we worry about people becoming complacent when a hurricane comes close and isn’t as bad as we thought it would be,” Judkins said. “We go through cycles of not being as prepared for some as we are for others, and you never know what will make a hurricane bad.”

Judkins advises people to use the near-miss hurricane as a practice by stocking up on everything they need for emergency kits and creating an emergency plan.

While Earl is gone and the Labor Day weekend looks promising, Judkins reminded residents of other developments in the tropics.

“[Tropical Storm Fiona] won’t be doing any damage, but she’s still out there churning up the ocean and possibly causing rip currents,” Judkins said. “Gaston has fizzled, and there was a wave coming off the African coast that we’re keeping an eye on. But if he made a run at the East Coast he’s 10 to 14 days out.”

As of 5 p.m. Friday, Fiona was 165 miles southwest of Bermuda and was expected to pass near the island overnight.

Those who are planning beach trips should talk with the lifeguard on duty about rip currents in the area if they or their children are swimming, Judkins advised.