Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Isabel Slams Virginia (2003)

Some weather nerds (like myself) enjoy snow storms. Some, severe thunderstorms. Others may like (boring) days of endless sunshine. I love all of our weather in Virginia, but I especially like this time of the year when the tropics heat up.

We're nearing the seven year anniversary of Hurricane Isabel. Once a major category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, Isabel weakened to a CAT2 before making landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on September 18, 2003. Isabel would then race across Virginia.

In 2003, I was working at the ABC affiliate in Harrisonburg as the morning and noon meteorologist. It wasn't the first hurricane I had covered, but it was the first one I was about to cover that was like looking down the barrel of a gun. There was no doubt Isabel would track across the Shenandoah Valley and dump heavy rain. Dump it did. Rainfall totals from our weather watchers poured into the weather office. Often viewers would call more than once an hour reporting "another inch of rain". When all was said and done, we averaged 6-12" of rain. Some places got more. Upper Sherando in August County had around 20".

I was on the air when the heart of the storm hit. A reporter came into the studio and said Harrisonburg police were searching for people in an overturned canoe. The exact details have faded with time, but I remember one young man died in that accident. I believe he was a JMU student. The normally very dry creek became a raging river of muddy water. Later in the day, two more people died in Rockingham County when their horse and buggy overturned as they attempted to cross a fast-flowing river. I recall video of the black horse still in the river. Not pretty.

I have always had an interest in what tropical systems can do to Virginia, specifically the inland affects. Camille (1969), Hugo (1989) and Isabel are just a few that come to mind. As we reflect on Isabel, it's a good time to remember to have a plan. This is National Preparedness Month. Make a safety supply kit for your family. Know what to do during an event like Isabel.

We're at the peak of hurricane season now. Stay with SkyTracker7 Weather, and depend on us to bring you the latest on what could still offer some attitude from the tropical Atlantic. Hurricane season ends November 30th.