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Ocean City Puts Irene in Rear-view Mirror

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Businesses in Ocean City began to reopen Sunday afternoon, after shutting down Friday in advance of Hurricane Irene.
Bryan Russo
Businesses in Ocean City began to reopen Sunday afternoon, after shutting down Friday in advance of Hurricane Irene.

Town officials in Ocean City are breathing a sigh of relief after hurricane Irene passed by without inflicting too much damage on the resort. The region is now trying to salvage whats left of the summer season.

After evacuating 200,000 people Friday, Ocean City officials opened access back onto the island on Sunday morning with hopes of putting the doom and gloom forecasts that preceded Hurricane Irene behind them and looking ahead to Labor Day weekend.

Danny King has owned Kingees cotton candy shop on the Boardwalk for more than three decades, and he says he's amazed by how lucky the resort was.

"Things are basically normal", said King "There's a little bit of sand and bulldozers out, but everything drained. There's not water in the street, and it looks to me like everything went as good as it could have."

Now that the storm has passed, town officials expect some people to grumble over the city's first full scale evacuation since Hurricane Gloria destroyed most of the city's boardwalk in 1985.

But the city says it's stands by its decision, and city manager Dennis Dare says the town feels lucky to have gotten through a very tumultuous week.

"First an earthquake and then a hurricane", said Dare, "we dodged a missile on this one."

City officials point to the fact that Irene hit the city hardest at low tide, which was the perfect condition for keeping flooding to a minimum.

In addition, Ocean City's dune system held firm and weathered the storm despite massive surges and crashing waves of more than 15 feet.

But by Sunday, the sun was out and the people of the region, along with some visitors, were coming back to town.

Randy Hoffman constructs the iconic sand sculptures that have been seen by millions over the past 20 years. He says two of his sand mountains were destroyed by Irene, but he was amazed to find out that the one depicting Noah's Ark was ironically left unscathed.

"That's been a big topic on the boardwalk today", says Hoffman. "'Look there's Noah, he's in his element and he survived well.'"

Mayor Rick Meehan says he's done hundreds of interviews in the past week about Irene, and now, he says he'll be happy to get a few hours sleep in his own bed, and then get back to work on Monday inviting people to the beach for the summer's big finale: Labor Day weekend.

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