Hurricane Isabel struck the North Carolina coast as a Category 2 hurricane on September 18, 2003. Isabel started like many other storms, as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa. Isabel rapidly intensified to a Category 5 (the strongest category on the Saffir-Simpson scale) for 3 days while over the Atlantic Ocean. Conditions in the upper atmosphere helped to weaken this power storm to a Category 2 before making landfall near Drum Inlet, North Carolina.
Isabel was not the strongest storm to affect, the North Carolina coastline. The hurricane brought strong winds up to 105 mph in parts of Outer Banks Hyde county. Rainfall exceeded 6 inches in many places including Craven, Carteret, and Hyde counties extending northward the Virginia border. The strong winds and heavy rains created numerous problems such as downed trees and flooding. It left seven hundred thousand North Carolinian’s without power for several days but Isabel will best be remembered for the damaging storm surge she brought.
The Outer Banks saw waters rise 6 to 8 feet above normal. Those at the mouth of the Neuse River saw 8 to 10 feet above normal. Isabel left a permanent mark on the Cape Hatteras Village deemed the Isabel Inlet. You can see where the sand and road were completely washed away. The storm surge was powerful enough to wash a buoy onshore! Hundreds were left stranded and were not allowed on the Outer Banks due to damaged road conditions. It took over 2 months to reopen Highway 12 and Hatteras Island.
A federal disaster was declared for 36 counties in North Carolina. The total cost of damage to Eastern North Carolina was 450 million dollars. One of the most impressive numbers was the 5 billion dollars of total economic loss.
Though hurricane Isabel may be an impressive sight from above, it goes to show, a “minor” hurricane can still pack a punch and wreak havoc.
Credits: All the websites used: noaa.gov, nasa.gov, islandfreepress.com