11:32 am - Monday May 28, 2012

Hurricane Isabel

Hurricane-IsabelHurricane Isabel was the costliest and deadliest hurricane in the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season. The ninth named storm, fifth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the season, Isabel formed near the Cape Verde Islands from a tropical wave on September 6 in the tropical Atlantic Ocean. It moved northwestward, and within an environment of light wind shear and warm waters it steadily strengthened to reach peak winds of 165 mph (265 km/h) on September 11. After fluctuating in intensity for four days, Isabel gradually weakened and made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with winds of 105 mph (165 km/h) on September 18. It quickly weakened over land and became extratropical over western Pennsylvania the next day.

In North Carolina, the storm surge from Isabel washed out a portion of Hatteras Island to form what was unofficially known as Isabel Inlet. Damage was greatest along the Outer Banks, where thousands of homes were damaged or even destroyed. The worst of the effects of Isabel occurred in Virginia, especially in the Hampton Roads area and along the shores of rivers as far west and north as Richmond and Washington, DC. Virginia reported the most deaths and damage from the hurricane. About 64% of the damage and 68% of the deaths occurred in North Carolina and Virginia. Electric service was disrupted in areas of Virginia for several days, some more rural areas were without electricity for weeks, and local flooding caused thousands of dollars in damage.

Moderate to severe damage extended up the Atlantic coastline and as far inland as West Virginia. Roughly six million people were left without electric service in the eastern United States from the strong winds of Isabel. Rainfall from the storm extended from South Carolina to Maine, and westward to Michigan. Throughout the path of Isabel, damage totaled about $3.6 billion (2003 USD, $4.3 billion 2012 USD). 16 deaths in seven U.S. states were directly related to the hurricane, with 35 deaths in six states and one Canadian province indirectly related to the hurricane.

Impact of Hurricane Isabel

Strong winds from Isabel extended from North Carolina to New England and westward to West Virginia. The winds, combined with previous rainfall which moistened the soil, downed many trees and power lines across its path, leaving about 6 million electricity customers without power at some point. Parts of coastal Virginia, especially in the Hampton Roads and Northeast North Carolina areas, were without electricity for almost a month. Coastal areas suffered from waves and its powerful storm surge, with areas in eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia reporting severe damage from both winds and the storm surge. Throughout its path, Isabel resulted in $3.6 billion in damage (2003 USD, $4.3 billion 2012 USD) and 51 deaths, of which 16 were directly related to the storm’s effects.

The governors of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware declared states of emergency. Isabel was the first major hurricane to threaten the Mid-Atlantic States and the Upper South since Hurricane Floyd in September 1999. Isabel’s greatest effect was due to flood damage, the worst in some areas of Virginia since 1972′s Hurricane Agnes. More than 60 million people were affected to some degree-a similar number to Floyd but more than any other hurricane in recent memory.

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