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Two storm-damaged Raleigh cemeteries reopen

Posted January 3, 2012

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— Two of three historic Raleigh cemeteries damaged more than eight months ago by a tornado have reopened to the public, city officials said Tuesday.

The April 16 tornado caused significant damage to trees and headstones at O'Rorke-Catholic Cemetery and Mount Hope Cemetery. Downed trees and other debris have been removed from both cemeteries, officials said, but repairs to headstones and monuments continue.

City Cemetery, which also was damaged in the storm, remains closed, but officials said it would reopen soon.

Because the cemeteries are historic and because Raleigh wanted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the cleanup costs, the city had to hire an archaeologist to examine each of the trees' roots to look for human remains.

A consultant then had to develop a clean-up plan, and city staff had to go through training to monitor and ensure that crews removed trees properly and carefully.

Mount Hope sustained the most damage in the tornado, according to the archaeological survey, but three partial skeletons were unearthed in City Cemetery. In all, seven trees unearthed vaults, caskets or human remains at the three cemeteries, while 19 trees disturbed headstones or grave markers.

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