Local News

Isabel Weakens To Tropical Storm, Leaves N.C.

Posted September 19, 2003 7:00 a.m. EDT

— 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 request for a federal disaster declaration, ordering federal aid to the state.

According to the White House, federal assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and for low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says damage surveys were continuing and more areas and additional forms of assistance may be designated.

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 the southern Outer Banks, between Cape Lookout and Ocracoke Island, the National Hurricane Center said. About 100 of Ocracoke's more than 900 residents had chosen to ride out the storm.

Isabel's top sustained wind eased to 95 mph after it made landfall, 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, with about 4 feet in the Neuse River at New Bern, N.C., the hurricane center said. There was a threat of isolated tornadoes in parts of North Carolina, Virginia and southeastern Maryland, meteorologists said.


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 hilly Eastern Panhandle and 6 to 9 inches of rain was forecast for parts of Pennsylvania.

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

Utility Worker Killed

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

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

Craig Conrad, executive vice-president and general manager of the utility, said the company is devastated by the news of Anderson'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 troops available for immediate disaster response from 288 to 600 and says 15 helicopters and two C-130 cargo aircraft were on standby.

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

In anticipation of flooding and wind damage, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell issued a statewide "disaster emergency" declaration. Governors of West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware had earlier declared emergencies, and the governor of New Jersey planned a declaration Thursday.

At Virginia Beach, Va., huge waves destroyed a "small piece of the end" of the 400-foot-long 15th Street pier, the only oceanfront 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 halted service south of Washington, and the Washington-area Metro system shut down all subway and bus service.

The Federal Aviation Administration closed its air traffic control tower in Norfolk, Va., and flight arrivals at New York's LaGuardia Airport were delayed up to six hours, the FAA said. It said some 430 arrivals and 360 departures had already been canceled by early morning at 19 major airports in the Northeast, South and Midwest.

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 County beaches, officials reported.

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

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

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

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

"This is the worst I've ever seen worse than Dennis II," he said. "It's just unbelievable. There are a lot of houses that are flooded." 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.