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Isabel Weakens To Tropical Storm, Leaves N.C.

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ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. — Isabel has weakened to tropical storm status as it makes its way through Virginia. The storm pounded the Outer Banks with howling wind, stinging rain and waves. The full aftermath will not be known until Friday morning when crews head out to assess the damage.

Images From Isabel Slideshow

President Bush granted North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley's requestfor a federal disaster declaration, ordering federal aid to thestate.

According to the White House, federal assistance can includegrants for temporary housing and home repairs, and for low-costloans to cover uninsured property losses.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says damage surveys werecontinuing and more areas and additional forms of assistance may bedesignated.

Overall, Gov. Mike Easley said the state is handling the storm very well, but he is urging residents to be cautious.

"It appears that North Carolinians were well prepared for this storm, but it is not over. Fallen trees and flooding on our roadways makes travel hazardous," said Easley. "People need to stay off the roads until after the storm passes. I urge all residents to remain in a safe location until Isabel moves out of North Carolina."

At 11 p.m. EDT, the center of Tropical Storm Isabel was 37.7 north and 78.0 west. Officials say it is 35 miles west of Richmond, Va. It is moving northwest at around 23 mph. The center of Isabel is expected to move across eastern Virginia toward western Pennsylvania over the next 24 hours.

The eye of the hurricane came ashore about 1 p.m. near Drum Inlet along thesouthern Outer Banks, between Cape Lookout and Ocracoke Island, theNational Hurricane Center said. About 100 of Ocracoke's more than900 residents had chosen to ride out the storm.

Isabel's top sustained wind eased to 95 mph after it madelandfall, and a gust to 105 mph was measured at Ocracoke Island,the hurricane center said. Hurricane-force wind -- at least 74 mph -- extended up 115 miles out from the center.

A storm surge of 5 to 6 feet was reported at Cape Hatteras, withabout 4 feet in the Neuse River at New Bern, N.C., the hurricanecenter said. There was a threat of isolated tornadoes in parts ofNorth Carolina, Virginia and southeastern Maryland, meteorologistssaid.

Some

school systems

were closed Thursday because of Isabel, and some have already made the call for Friday.

Wake County, Granville County, Johnston County schools will be closed Friday as well as Mecklenburg County, Va. schools. Franklin County schools are closed with an optional teacher workday. Schools in Cumberland and Sampson Counties will open two hours late.

A tropical storm warning is now in effect north of Surf City, N.C. to Moriches Inlet, New York, including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, Chesapeake Bay, the tidal Potomac and Delaware Bay. Up to a foot of rain was possible in West Virginia's hillyEastern Panhandle and 6 to 9 inches of rain was forecast for partsof Pennsylvania.

Because of the already wet soil from a rainy summer, the U.S.Geological Survey said there was a potential of landslides in WestVirginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York.

Utility Worker Killed

A power company employee was electrocutedThursday while making repairs in the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel.

Harold T. Anderson Jr. was killed while working inside asubstation. He had worked for Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperativefor 29 years.

Craig Conrad, executive vice-president and general managerof the utility, said the company is devastated by the news ofAnderson's death.

Thousands In N.C., Virginia Without Power

As of 11 p.m. Thursday, Progress Energy officials said there are 282,000 outages throughout North Carolina. Dominion Virginia Power, which also serves some North Carolina customers, reportedly have 1,434,768 outages. North Carolina Cooperatives has 119,972 outages, Duke Power reported 118,973 outages and N.C. Public Power has 68,000 outages.

The North Carolina National Guard boosted the number of troopsavailable for immediate disaster response from 288 to 600 and says15 helicopters and two C-130 cargo aircraft were on standby.

The guard says it has 3,500 troops available for rapidresponse.

In anticipation of flooding and wind damage, Pennsylvania Gov. EdRendell issued a statewide "disaster emergency" declaration.Governors of West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware hadearlier declared emergencies, and the governor of New Jerseyplanned a declaration Thursday.

At Virginia Beach, Va., huge waves destroyed a "small piece ofthe end" of the 400-foot-long 15th Street pier, the onlyoceanfront pier in the resort area, officials said.

Travel Problems Continue To Mount

Flights were canceled at

RDU International

Thursday as Hurricane Isabel pounded the North Carolina coast. However, officials did say they plan to have some flights out of RDU International starting at 8 a.m. Friday.

The federal government shut down in Washington and officials said it will also be shut down on Friday. Amtrak haltedservice south of Washington, and the Washington-area Metro systemshut down all subway and bus service.

The Federal Aviation Administration closed its air trafficcontrol tower in Norfolk, Va., and flight arrivals at New York'sLaGuardia Airport were delayed up to six hours, the FAA said. Itsaid some 430 arrivals and 360 departures had already been canceledby early morning at 19 major airports in the Northeast, South andMidwest.

Damage Reported Throughout Eastern N.C., Coast

A construction business is under water off Highway 32 near the Chowan River. Heavy winds and high water made a mess in the area. Creeks and rivers overflowed their banks making travel very difficult.

In Pamlico County, people are dealing with massive flooding. Officials say Main Street has been flooded out. Mailboxes are underwater as well as the town docks. The marina hotel was also flooded. Official also report that looting is a problem, especially in the area of Kennels Beach.//

The North Carolina National Guard and other officials were called out to the Craven County town of Harlowe. Officials say about 100 people were trapped in flooded homes. The people were transported to a shelter established at Havelock High School. High winds and rain destroyed nearly 40 homes. Crews expect the clean up to take several days.

Damage was minimal at Pender Countybeaches, officials reported.

"This is exactly what I said would happen," Dave Keefer saidafter surveying the dam age at his Surf City Grill. "Just a coupleshingles. That's it."

Parts of roofs were blown off two houses in Surf City, among theworst damage reported from Isabel, whose winds never reachedtropical storm-force on the island.

A few windows broke, and shingles and siding blew off otherhomes, although none were lost on Surf City or Topsail Beach,officials reported.

Nelson Lee of Lowland Road on Goose Creek Island called it theworst flooding he had seen in 35 years on the far eastern island.

"This is the worst I've ever seen worse than Dennis II," hesaid. "It's just unbelievable. There are a lot of houses that areflooded." He had 28 inches of water in his garage.

  • September 18, 2003:
  • Video: WRAL Covers The Coast: Watch 6 p.m. Reports
  • September 17, 2003:
  • Isabel Closes In On N.C. Coast; Easley Urges People To Watch For Flash Flooding
  • September 17, 2003:
  • Video: Easley Surveys Eastern N.C. Before Storm
  • September 17, 2003:
  • Video: WRAL Covers The Coast: Watch 6 p.m. Reports
  • September 17, 2003:
  • RDU International Reports Cancellations Due To Isabel
  • September 17, 2003:
  • Isabel Forces Amtrak To Shut Down Service To N.C.

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