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Irene Damages Some Beaches, Spares Others Along Coast

Beaches along the Atlantic coast took a beating over the weekend from Hurricane Irene, which caused heavy damage to some popular seaside tourist towns while sparing others the worst of its powerful wind and waves.

A police officer patrols the beach next to the synthetic plank boardwalk in Spring Lake, New Jersey, which was mostly destroyed and rendered unusable by Hurricane Irene.
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In New Jersey, on the historic boardwalk in Asbury Park, heavy concrete benches were upended and the wooden walkway was heaped with sand, residents said.

The sandy beach was washed away with hard-packed flat dirt and debris left behind, said Geoff Merritt, who owns a house two blocks from the boardwalk.

"The beach is gone," he said. "It was a nice beach, and it's just gone."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said beach water quality monitoring would resume on Monday in preparation for reopening popular tourist spots.

"We can get our beaches open as quickly as it's safe for people to be back in the water," he told a news conference. He said damage at beaches "wasn't as bad" as expected based on initial assessments.

On the popular summer vacation spot of Long Beach Island, a barrier island with about 8,000 year-round residents, the beaches were flat after the hurricane swept through early on Sunday with winds of up to 60 mph (96 kph).

"Typically it washes a ledge along the beach into the dunes, so you get these cuts," said Ted Harrop, 49, who remained on the island with his elderly parents in Beach Haven, New Jersey.

Police opened the island on Sunday afternoon and evacuation orders were lifted.    

Ready for Tourists

Also ready for the return of tourists was Atlantic City, which fared well in the storm, said Danielle Battistone, general manager of the local Tun Tavern and Brewery.

"No trees are down or power lines, as far as I can see," she said. "It's strange. It's completely dry."

At Delaware's Dewey Beach, the dunes had been built up artificially and planted with long grasses to limit storm damage. They appeared badly eroded but not significantly damaged after the storm.

Hurricane Irene - A CNBC Special Report

"I'm pretty happy with what I see," said Tom Mullen, 61, of Seaford, Delaware, as he surveyed the scene.

Further south, North Carolina beaches suffered damage, said First Sergeant Jeff Gordon with the State Highway Patrol. He said some piers broke off and there was likely to be structural damage and erosion along the Atlantic

"It is just a question of how much and to what extent, and we won't know that until the damage assessor's report," he said.

Governor Beverly Perdue said most North Carolina beaches were now open. South Carolina also fared reasonably well, said Derrec Becker of the state Emergency Management Division.

"We are very lucky," he said, saying no boardwalks were down and there was very little erosion.

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