In southeastern North Carolina, they've seen worse

WILMINGTON—Hurricane Irene sloshed and blew her way ashore early Saturday at the southeastern coast, bringing localized flooding, downed trees, power outages and contributing to a possible drowning.

By early evening Irene was still dumping rain, bending trees and snatching hats from people's heads.

But despite the storm's duration and strength, it drew somewhat derisive comparisons to her fiercer predecessors.

"Floyd was tough," said Gordon Redix, who's owned the Redix beach store on Wrightsville Beach since 1969. "Bonnie, my wife, and I were out here in the parking lot after boarding up, and the winds were 90 mph."

Redix, dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, was pulling plywood from his store's windows Saturday morning in preparation for reopening later in the day. Scrawled across the plywood were names of all the storms the store has survived: Bertha, Fran, Bonnie, Hanna, Hazel, Dennis, Charley, Ophelia and others.

"I would say this is probably as mild as we've seen," Redix said.

Still, he acknowledged the storm's power. His son had just seen a car flip over driving in the bad weather, Redix said, and Irene was certainly dangerous.

The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office reported that 27-year-old Milton Robinson was missing after he somehow ended up in the Northeast Cape Fear River around 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

Authorities called off any search for him until the river calmed enough to permit rescue boats to go out, and said the search was still being treated as a missing persons case.

In Wilmington, the electricity flickered on and off throughout the night, and finally went off around 4:30 a.m. on Market Street near downtown.

At Johnnie Mercer's Pier, winds topped 60 mph just before 11 p.m. Friday, according to a police officer there.

When asked how the pier was doing, the officer yelled, "Looking good!" Still, the pier was closed and without power Saturday.

Although much of the area remained without power Saturday night, some areas got lucky.

Up N.C. 17 from Wilmington, many stoplights were working. The restaurants that were open, and Bojangles', Hardee's and McDonald's, had lines of cars snaked around their drive-thru windows.

Localized flooding washed over some roads in Topsail Beach and Surf City, closing North Topsail to traffic for much of the day. Still, many roads were passable, with SUVs plowing through the few inches of standing water.

Streets were largely deserted, and almost all businesses remained closed. The sun briefly broke through the clouds in mid-afternoon.

By about 4 p.m. Saturday, some residents were taking hurricane shutters and plywood off their doors and windows as the storm faded.

Back at Wrightsville Beach, mail carrier Scott Messina went about his rounds in shorts and a shirt, no jacket.

He said he got word early in the morning that service would continue uninterrupted.

"This isn't too bad," Messina said. "It has to be really bad for us not to go out."