In September 2003 we have lived through our first-ever hurricane, in Richmond, Virginia, about two hours drive from the coast. We have never been in a hurricane before, though we have seen the spin-off storms from them in Texas. The actual hurricane itself came up through here and on up across Canada.
This was the largest storm ever here. I never heard of a hurricane continuing so strong for so far over land. It has gone all the way up to Toronto. The eye of the storm passed about 20 miles to our west, with winds measured in Richmond up to 61mph.
Rain from the northern edges of the hurricane Isabel hit Richmond during the night, Wednesday, 17 September. Wind was getting bad, with driving sheets of rain blowing by late morning. It got darker and rain continued throughout the day.
Our power went out about 9:45 PM, Thursday (18 September). The wind and rain continued until about 1:30 or 2:00 AM Friday, then it got deathly still. We had a beautiful sun, with a few puffy clouds on Friday, with heavy, humid air.
We got our power back on after about 44 hours. The area west of us where our church is located continued in the dark till Tuesday the 23rd. Last Sunday at church a generator provided enough power to run the sound system for our one service, but could not provide lights for other activities. (I played the bass guitar for a bluegrass special that was originally planned for our early service.)
We had no damage, other than lots of small limbs strewed around. In our immediate area I did not see any structural damage, though some people had trees fall in their yard. Several houses were severely damaged in other parts of Richmond.
The area south and east of us was devastated, with many houses near the James River damaged by falling trees, high winds and flood waters. In the Richmond area, 7 people died due to Hurricane Isabel.
Water was a problem. Though ours never quit running, water was unsafe to drink for several days. Restaurants were closed, as well as many businesses. Our offices were closed on Thursday and Friday, open again on Monday then closed again on Tuesday due to a new power outage.
At of mid-day Thursday, 25 September, about 210,000 customers (individual houses and businesses) in the Richmond area were still without electricity. Statewide about half a million customers were without power at that time. Many businesses were still closed then. 1.7 million people were without power in Virginia, the largest outage in Dominion Virginia Power's history. Schools began reopening on Monday 29 September.
Many houses were destroyed, power cut off and roads blocked by a subsequent tornado early Tuesday night. That storm was spawned by a huge thunderstorm that passed to the east over parts of five or six states. The tornado crossed over about 10 counties of Virginia and went on up into Maryland. This storm dropped about 4 inches of rain on Richmond, after it had rained overnight. Trees continued falling for days, complicating the job of restoring electricity.
Thank you for your prayers and concern, your emails and phone calls.
By 29 September 2003, power outages are now down to 130,000 customers in Virginia, about 30,000 of them in the Richmond area. Things were becoming close to normal. Areas near the river are taking longer to clear of trees.
With help from power crews from many other states, as far away as Oklahoma and Missouri, Dominion Virginia Power quickly restored power. By Friday 3 October 1600 customers were offline, but they claimed all were connected by the end of the day.
NASA Photo of Isabel
Orville Boyd Jenkins
5 October 2003
Last Updated 21 January 2008