Hurricane Isabel ten years after
How many of you remember waking up ten years ago today – Sept 19th – to a stark contrast between a dark and quiet house with no electricity and the raucous buzz of chainsaws outside? That’s what I remember from the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel which slammed the Fredericksburg area with tropical storm force winds and several inches of rain. The combination of soggy soil and strong easterly winds toppled thousands of trees around the region, with gigantic root balls lying exposed after being ripped out of the ground. An article on Fredericksburg.com posted on Nov. 9th 2003 stated that across Virginia more than 3 million trees were damaged!
The widespread tree destruction inflicted a secondary disaster for the ‘Burg in that power lines and poles were taken down by the hundreds, meaning days and, in some cases, weeks without power. The overall damage to our power infrastructure was detailed in an article posted on Fredericksburg.com on October 14th that year. Per that article in northern VA more than 81% of Dominion customers lost power, with that figure rising to 92% inside Fredericksburg city limits. In Spotsylvania over 94% of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative customers lost power.
Along the shores of the Potomac River the impacts from Isabel included wave and storm surge action, with damage increasing further downriver where the winds were stronger. Another Fredericksburg.com article published on Nov. 8th detailed the impacts on Westmoreland State Park, with downed trees, wrecked piers, and up to three feet of mud and sand deposited on picnics areas and parking lots. Overall 22 of 34 state parks were damaged by Isabel’s wrath which required millions of state dollars to repair.
The sheer extent of the damage meant that it took quite a while for power poles to be replaced and wires restrung in order to restore electricity, leading to long-term power outages as mentioned above. Fortunately – as I remember – the weather following Isabel‘s passage was relatively benign with little or no rain and comfortable temperatures so neither heat nor air conditioning was truly needed. Impromptu backyard barbecue parties occurred in an attempt to cook food in danger of spoiling for those of us without generators. And sheer boredom with no internet or television to entertain us led to neighbors actually taking time to visit with one another over the fence, something that occurs far less often than it could…or should.
Now in the midst of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season the National Hurricane Center forecast graphics show no threats to the U.S. mainland over the next week or so. That doesn’t mean we can ignore the tropics, however. All it takes is one storm (remember Sandy last year?) to wreck property, endanger lives, and generally create havoc with our daily routine. Yes I’m a weather geek, but the weather impacts all of us be it good or bad.
Tomorrow’s blogpost will take a look at the upcoming weekend weather. Meanwhile enjoy today’s high in the upper 70′s under bright sunshine and light breezes.