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Hospital deluged with births as Irene battered North Carolina

WILMINGTON, North Carolina (Reuters) - As Hurricane Irene lashed the U.S. East Coast, it brought a deluge of another sort to a North Carolina hospital -- an unusually high number of newborn babies.

Seventeen babies were born at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center during an 18-hour stretch on Friday and Saturday when the hospital was on lockdown during the storm, spokeswoman Carolyn Fisher said.

"Certainly, it is noteworthy," Fisher said of the seemingly inexplicable high number of births. "The normal average per day is more like 10 or 11."

None of the mothers chose to name their infants Irene.

Fisher could not explain why the hospital saw so many births during the storm but added the birth rate petered out as Irene, now sweeping along the northeast coast as a tropical storm, passed and the lockdown on the hospital was lifted.

"It's very quiet here today," she said on Sunday, which she described as a "perfectly beautiful" day.

(Reporting by Cynthia Johnston and Jim Brumm; Editing by Dan Whitcomb)

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