With hurricane season in full swing, the Mirror looks back at Hurricane Isabel, which struck in September 2003, had a significant impact on the Hampton Roads region of Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Here is what happened 20 years ago during Hurricane Isabel’s passage through Hampton Roads and the Outer Banks:
Hampton Roads, Virginia
Hurricane Isabel brought a powerful storm surge to the low-lying areas of Hampton Roads. The surge inundated coastal communities and caused severe flooding in many parts of the region. Water levels exceeded 8 feet in some areas, causing extensive damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure.
Isabel’s strong winds, which reached hurricane force, caused widespread damage to trees, power lines, and buildings. Many residents lost power for days or even weeks as a result.
In anticipation of the storm, mandatory evacuations were ordered for vulnerable areas, and emergency shelters were opened. Tens of thousands of residents evacuated their homes, resulting in crowded shelters and significant disruptions to daily life.
The storm’s impact on transportation was severe. Roads and highways were flooded or blocked by debris, making travel difficult. The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, a critical transportation artery in the region, was closed due to flooding and damage. The economic toll of Hurricane Isabel in Hampton Roads was substantial. Businesses suffered losses, and many residents faced financial hardships due to property damage and the extended power outages.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
The barrier islands of the Outer Banks bore the brunt of Isabel’s storm surge. In some areas, storm surge levels exceeded 10 feet, resulting in severe coastal erosion and widespread inundation of homes and roadways. The storm surge and flooding temporarily cut off some sections of the Outer Banks from the mainland, isolating communities and creating logistical challenges for rescue and relief efforts.
Isabel caused extensive structural damage to homes and businesses along the Outer Banks. Beachfront properties were particularly vulnerable to erosion and wind damage.The storm damaged roads and bridges, making it difficult for residents and emergency personnel to access affected areas. Many parts of the Outer Banks experienced prolonged power outages.
The Outer Banks rely heavily on tourism, and the disruption caused by Hurricane Isabel had a significant impact on the local economy. Damage to vacation rentals and attractions led to financial losses for the tourism industry.
Hurricane Isabel’s impact on Hampton Roads and the Outer Banks 20 years ago serves as a reminder of the destructive power of hurricanes and the need for preparedness, resilience, and community support in the face of such natural disasters.