By Matthew Ward
CHESAPEAKE, Va (Reuters) - Scattered power outages and heavy rains hit parts of southeast Virginia on Saturday in the path of Hurricane Irene as motorists navigated broken branches, debris and deep puddles to gather storm supplies.
"The waves are pretty big out there and this is only the beginning -- we're expecting it to get worse later today and this evening," said Donnie Finnie, who was working the front desk at The Cavalier Hotel that fronts the ocean on Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach.
"I'm looking out the window, it's raining pretty hard," Finnie said. "The trees are blowing over and we have a couple down."
Some residents on Saturday morning were picking up last minute supplies to ride out Irene, which has caused at least three deaths in North Carolina, according to local media.
A handful of vehicles crossed roads around the Greenbrier area of Chesapeake, Virginia, windshield wipers beating and headlights illuminated.
Matthew Knight, 27, and Becky Knight, 29, clutched several packets of D-sized batteries and scanned what remained on the shelves at a Lowe's hardware store in Chesapeake off Interstate 664 on Portsmouth Boulevard on Saturday.
"We're here to get some last minute stuff," Matthew Knight said. "We ended up getting a generator but we just needed to get some extension cords and a couple of batteries."
Matthew Knight said the couple, who are bread vendors, had just finished an intense three days of deliveries to major area stores including Wal-Mart, Farm Fresh and Food Lion.
"There was a lot more demand for bread -- 100 per cent more demand," Knight said.
The category 1 hurricane hit the North Carolina coast Saturday and began to move upward along the U.S. East Coast.
The City of Chesapeake reported that 100 residents spent Friday night in four shelters. The city has not issued any mandatory evacuation orders but has called on people to leave if they are flood prone or in a mobile home.
Virginia transportation officials closed two tunnels on Saturday, the Interstate 64 Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Midtown Tunnel Saturday morning because of sustained tropical force winds. It also reduced speeds at the Downtown Tunnel.
Sarah Greco, 33, of Chesapeake, was one of the last customers to eat at a Cracker Barrel restaurant near the Lowe's, before it closed for the weekend at 10 a.m. Saturday.
"We just came to grab some breakfast," Greco said, peering from beneath the hood of a rain slicker. "We've just brought in everything from outside and we have plenty of bottled water and canned goods. I feel fine about it."
(Additional reporting by Molly O'Toole in Washington; Writing by David Bailey. Editing by Peter Bohan)