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“They knew they had to get people out early,” Mayfield said.

Cutter said the death count from Irene, so far around three dozen, is extraordinarily low considering where it hit, the rainfall, tornadoes and the large size of the storm.

For Bloomberg, that’s the real key. He said Sunday, “the bottom line is, I would make the same decisions again without hesitation.”

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Borenstein reported from Washington. Contributing to this report were Randall Chase in Lewes, Del., Beth DeFalco in Trenton, N.J., and John Christoffersen in East Haven, Conn.