Remembering Hurricane Isabel 10 Years Later

Ten years ago on September 18 2003, Central Virginia was under assault from Hurricane Isabel's battering winds.

When it was done, much the state and the region was damaged and in the dark.

On paper – or in this case on Doppler – Isabel was just a category 1 hurricane and was shrugged off by many who'd weathered what they thought was much worse.

Isabel, which was about the size of the state of Colorado, was a Category 2 when it made landfall in North Carolina during the height of the storm. As it moved through Central Virginia, there were maximum wind gusts of 73 miles per hour. 

The storm's intensity and destructive power was something no one was truly prepared for.

While waves battered coastal towns and cities, the storm surge forced its way up stream over running numerous river front communities

Isabel's price tag topped $1.6 billion as more than 9,000 homes and more than 1,400 businesses were either destroyed or sustained damage.

Tossed about like foam on the ocean, falling trees were to blame for most of the devastation. Roads were blocked for days making many neighborhoods remained inaccessible.

It would end up taking 660,000 dump trucks to clear all the debris and making recovery all that much harder.

1.8 million Virginians were left in the dark

“We'd worked many hurricanes over the years, but nothing of the likes of Isabel,” says Joe Woomer of Dominion Power. “Power crews had their work cut out for them after Isabel cleared out with trees down everywhere across the region.”

Some residents waited for days to get their power back.  

Crews would work around the clock not just to make repairs, but in many places, they had to rebuild the power system pole by pole.

“We actually used a year's worth of poles in ten days during Isabel,” Woomer says.

Restoring all the power took 14 days at a cost of $128 million. 

Dominion Power learned some very valuable lessons that lead to changes.

Crews have also been more aggressive about cutting back vegetation from power lines. And the company has upgraded online outage reports to give customers interactive information about problems and repairs being made in their neighborhoods.  

With one click, Dominion can also see when critical emergency services like hospitals, 911 centers and water treatment plants are offline – something that couldn't be done in 2003.  

10 years later, Isabel is ultimately remembered not just for flooded streets and falling trees. Her true cost measured by the 36 Virginians whose lives she claimed. The open spaces and elevated homes are a reminder of Hurricane Isabel's impact and residents hope to never to see a storm that powerful again.


Do you have a plan in case of severe weather? Download our 8News Stormtracker App for iPhone and for Android.

Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s