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Fallen trees from Hurricane Irene kill four in Virginia

A worker at the Trump Casino in Atlantic City takes a picture of the coastline near the boardwalk following Hurricane Irene
A worker at the Trump Casino in Atlantic City takes a picture of the coastline near the boardwalk following Hurricane Irene

By Matthew Ward

CHESAPEAKE, Va (Reuters) - Hurricane Irene killed four people in Virginia on a destructive path that affected half the state's land mass and two-thirds of the population, Governor Bob McDonnell said on Sunday.

All four deaths were connected with falling trees in the powerful storm, including an 11-year-old boy who died after being pinned under a tree that fell on his apartment home in Newport News.

"We're saddened to report four fatalities in Virginia," said McDonnell at a news conference in Richmond. "Our hearts go out to all of those who have lost loved ones."

The state Department of Transportation cautioned that dangers persisted into Sunday, despite the storm's departure northward.

"As Hurricane Irene takes aim at the New England states, she leaves behind a large number of downed trees, downed power lines and flooded roads in central Virginia," VDOT said.

The state Department of Emergency Management said power outages may last for up to two weeks.

Dominion Power reported 1.2 million customers were without power.

"This is our second largest restoration event ever behind only Hurricane Isabel," Dominion Power said in a statement. Isabel severely damaged the Atlantic coast in 2003.

As Irene hit Virginia, some of the worst weather was experienced inland, according to McDonnell.

"We had higher wind and rains ironically away from the coast than we actually did at the coast," he said.

Some of the heaviest rain and highest winds - the most powerful was 83 mph - were measured inland, McDonnell said.

Places such as Suffolk and Hampton Roads, further west than coastal locations such as Virginia Beach that were battered, had measurements of more than 16 inches of rain.

Deputy city manager Dave Hanson said the only damage in Virginia Beach was four houses hit by a small tornado.

"Beach surge did not damage ocean-front homes," Hanson said. "Some trees blew down and are currently being removed."

The storm surge, a widespread swelling of water in advance of Irene, was slightly lower than forecast but only 6 inches below the record surge seen in 1933, said McDonnell.

Virginia Beach ended its mandatory evacuation for some areas at 9 a.m. Residents were asked to return with caution.

(Additional reporting and writing by Molly O'Toole in Washington. Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Bohan)

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