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Demoted to a tropical depression, Dennis turned its back Sunday on North Carolina after pounding the coast for a week and finally coming ashore to flood lowland towns with half a foot of rain.

"I think we're finally going to get rid of it for a change," Clay Benton of the state emergency management division said Sunday.

Residents of Cedar Island, sideswiped by Dennis on its way up the coast Aug. 30 and clobbered again Saturday when its eye passed overhead, weren't sorry to see Dennis go, either, as they watched floodwaters recede Sunday.

"This is the first time that I remember that a hurricane hit us directly and then turned around and came back and hit us again," Henry Styron said. "It was a double whammy."

"If this comes around for a third time, I don't think even we could take it," said his wife, Sue. Both she and her husband are retired from the Coast Guard.

Dennis appeared to be leaving for good. At midday, it was drifting northwest toward southwestern Virginia amid a flurry of flash flood warnings and watches after spinning off a tornado Saturday night in Hampton, Va., that injured more than a dozen people. Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore asked President Clinton to provide federal disaster assistance to people displaced by the tornado.

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