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Hurricane Irene definitely blew big in coastal areas of North Carolina and Virginia — so big that nearly half a million homes have been left without electricity.

Hurricane Irene so far has left about 438,000 utility customers without power in North Carolina and Virginia as line crews begin assessing storm damage, two of the region’s largest utilities said Saturday.

Progress Energy Inc. reported around 250,000 customers without power concentrated in coastal North Carolina. Dominion Resources Inc. reported about 188,000 customers in northern North Carolina and southern Virginia without power.

“We have begun feeling the effects, and there is more ahead,” said Karl Neddenien, a spokesman for Dominion.

Utilities crews in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions such as Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. and Consolidated Edison Inc. are preparing as Hurricane Irene moves up the coast as a Category 1 storm carrying maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Unfortunately the power outages have not been the least of the devastation. Three deaths have already been reported from North Carolina. One person died in a vehicle crash in Pitt County, a man was killed in Nash County after a branch fell on him. Emergency officials there said he was crushed to death outside his home by a large tree limb blown down during high winds from Irene. Another person died in Onslow County on Thursday of a heart attack, as he was trying to board up his home.




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