Local News

Isabel Leaves Behind Damaged Homes, New Inlet

Posted September 19, 2003 6:30 a.m. EDT

— Hurricane Isabel appeared to be a study in contrasts: a large and messy storm that chose its victims carefully, slamming into North Carolina's most fragile areas, destroying property and leaving thousands with the prospect of having no power for weeks.

The water, sand, and wind wiped out several sections of Highway 12 on Hatteras Island. Isabel took that damage a step further by carving out a whole new inlet. The force of Hurricane Isabel split the island, cutting off all travel north of Hatteras Village. It left residents trapped because another unplanned waterway formed to the south.

Most of the damage was in the northeast corner of the state and on the central coast, including tiny Harlowe in Carteret County, where homes were destroyed. About 400,000 houses and residences in North Carolina remained without power Friday.

Officials are telling people not to come to the Outer Banks until noon Saturday. Access is restricted because of too much damage and debris that is blocking many roadways.

Pockets of damage line the coastline near Kill Devil Hills. The beach road is sitting in pieces and some of the dunes are missing. In Nags Head, two major landmarks were wiped out. The Nags Head pier is standing in the water, but Isabel pulled apart its shop on land. Isabel also destroyed Jeanette's Pier.

In Elizabeth City, on the northern end of the coast, 95 percent of the community was without power.

"I've never been in anything like this in my life, in my whole life," said Edmond Brown, 79, of Elizabeth City. "As old as I am, I thank God I lived through it all. Everything is tore up, but I'm grateful I'm still standing."

At least three people were killed in North Carolina, including a utility worker in Newport and two motorists in Franklin and Chowan counties. One of the dead was identified as Angelique Jones, 25, of Edenton, who was killed when a tree crushed her Jeep Cherokee on Thursday.

A storm-tossed tree fell into a natural gas substation in Hertford County, breaking a valve and causing a leak that continued through Friday morning, the county emergency management office said.

Brooks Stalnaker, 72, and his wife, Carole Frances, watched flood waters flatten their home in Harlowe on Thursday afternoon.

"It kind of looks like they misplaced the bomb for Saddam and dropped it here," Brooks Stalnaker said Friday. "We just got totaled."

The couple stayed with neighbors on higher ground, but saw the storm surge come toward their home.

"The water was banging against the center pane (window panes) and I told my wife, 'It can't take much more of this,' Brooks Stalnaker said. "About 10 minutes later, she started crying and said, 'Oh my God, there it goes.' We saw it go. It looked like it just collapsed within."

Officials in North Topsail beach said damage is minimal. Heavy winds from Hurricane Isabel ripped off siding and peeled away a few shingles, but most of the beachfront homes held up.

Most north Topsail Beach residents are busy Friday removing plywood from buildings and doors. It is the first time in years North Topsail Beach is not launching a massive cleanup after a major storm.

Areas that are farther inland, including the Triangle, saw mostly downed trees and power lines, but one county got the worst of the storm. Officials say Halifax County was hit hard. At one point, two-thirds of the county lost power.

Some isolated flash flooding was reported near Roanoke Rapids. Halifax and Edgecombe counties are the farthest inland that are part of the federal disaster area.

Localized outages were as high as 95 percent to 100 percent all along the Outer Banks and in Elizabeth City, and utility companies said they had no idea when power would be restored.

"This was a storm of historic proportions," said Dan Genest, a spokesman for Virginia-based Dominion Power, which serves counties in northeastern North Carolina and along the Outer Banks. "While not a very powerful hurricane, it cut through all of Dominion's service territory in North Carolina and Virginia, basically one end to another."

Renee Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said the state would begin a detailed assessment of the damage Tuesday. The state had no damage estimates Friday.

"The issues right now are public health and safety," she said.

In Bertie County in northeastern North Carolina, county manager Zee Lamb said only people with generators had power. "They're telling us it will be as much as two weeks before it's back on," he said. "We're hoping that's a worst-case scenario."

Roanoke Rapids Mayor D.N. Beale estimated it will take weeks or months to clean up damaged property. In Edenton, a historic town along the Albemarle Sound, town council member Steve Biggs said every inch of town was affected by the storm. "There's no place where you can go that you don't find destruction.

"This is the worst this town has ever seen."

In Wanchese, the pastor of Wanchese Assembly of God said the town "is going through the hardest hit that I've seen."

On nearby Roanoke Island, cleanup efforts started early. David Dalton, 42, pastor of Wanchese Assembly of God, worked in front of his brick house Friday morning while water 2-feet deep stood in his yard.

"Everybody's self-sufficient around here," he said. He said he planned to help older parishioners clean up "if I can get my hands on a saw."

Bob Cowden, 60, of Oriental, sorted through the soggy items he had tried to protect in his basement. The 4-1/2-foot sawhorses he stacked them on turned out to be about a foot too short.

"I was telling my wife, 'We pay for this view,"' Cowden said as he looked out over Neuse River. "Clean it up, put it in the trash and go again."

The eye of the storm swept over the coast near Core Banks about noon with 100 mph winds and a load of rain. It moved northwest toward Halifax County before moving into Virginia.

Bob Dorrman, a boat builder who lives in Harlowe, spent Friday morning cutting away vinyl siding ripped from the side of his house. He also tinkered with two cars in his driveway that wouldn't start after water submerged their engines.

"And look at it today," he said on the clear, calm morning. "It's like God's apologizing. Well, too late, dude."

About 60 miles to the northwest, Kinston was among the cities hit hardest by Floyd four years ago. Flooded churches and businesses had to rebuild. Many residents sold their flood-prone homes in a government buyout.

The stretch of U.S. 70 running through Kinston had water so deep "we had fish swimming across," said Lenoir County Sheriff W.E. Smith. "We got lucky this time."

Princeville was another North Carolina town where many residents lost their homes to Floyd. One of them was Lossie Knight, who sat with her daughter, Angela Sherrod, Thursday night with her screen door open to let in the remnants of Isabel's winds.

"Most of the residents are opening their doors, looking out the windows to see what's happening," Sherrod said. "We've had a much better time of it."

September 19: Stories & Video:

  • Pamlico Communities Sort Through Isabel's Destruction

  • State Animal Response Team Sets Up Shelters For Pets, Livestock

  • Raleigh Neighbors Band Together To Help Each Other Through Isabel

  • Despite Being Inland, Halifax County Hammered By Isabel's Wrath

  • Damage To Harlowe Extensive, Not Just Physical

  • Sky 5 Surveys Damage From Isabel

    September 18: Stories & Video:

  • Isabel Leaves 1 Million People Without Power

  • Isabel Causes Damage In Hayes Barton Neighborhood

  • Shelters Fill Up From Wilson County To Frankli County

  • Compared To Floyd, Isabel Goes Easy On Princeville

  • Isabel Weakens To Tropical Storm, Leaves N.C.

  • Wayne County Volunteer Response Center To Open Friday

  • Isabel's Wrath Felt Throughout Triangle

    Storm Conditions Prove Bearable With Biscuit

    Isabel's Wrath Felt Throughout Triangle

    WRAL Covers The Coast: 6 p.m. Reports