N.C. Governor Urges People To Move To Higher Ground
Flood Watch For Eastern N.C.; Hurricane Warning For Isabel Extends Northward
POSTED: 6:54 a.m. EDT September 17, 2003
UPDATED: 2:36 p.m. EDT September 17, 2003
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Governor Easley is urging North Carolinians living in the path of Hurricane Isabel to move to higher ground to avoid the danger of flash floods.
Easley says that while there won't be as much water as there was with Hurricane Floyd in 1999, swift water rescue teams are in place.
The governor says the National Guard is deployed in several different place locations. He says Progress Energy and Duke Power have brought their repair trucks into the state, with more repairmen in place than there were in the wake of last December's ice storm.
Easley also says the state has identified potential flash flood areas, and has told local emergency managers to be ready to notify citizens if they're in harm's way.
A hurricane warning remains in effect from Cape Fear, North Carolina to Chincoteague, Virginia, including Pamlico and Albemarle sounds and the Chesapeake Bay south of Smith Point.
A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within the warning area generally within 24 hours.
All preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area.
A tropical storm warning is in effect south of Cape Fear to South Santee River, S.C., and north of Chincoteague to Sandy Hook, N.J., including Delaware Bay. A tropical storm warning is also in effect for the Chesapeake Bay from Smith Point northward and for the tidal Potomac.
At 2 p.m. EDT, the center of Hurricane Isabel was located near latitude 30.6 north, longitude 73.0 west or about 350 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras.
Isabel is moving toward the north-northwest near 11 mph. Some increase in forward speed is expected over the next 24 hours. On the forecast track, the center of Isabel is expected to make landfall in eastern North Carolina during the day Thursday.
The precise timing and location of landfall is uncertain and conditions will deteriorate over a large area well before the center reaches the coast. Tropical storm conditions are expected to reach the coastline late Tuesday night.
Maximum sustained winds are near 105 mph with higher gusts. Isabel is a category two hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Little change in strength is forecast prior to landfall.
Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 115 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 315 miles.
Storm surge flooding of 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels is expected near and to the north of where the center crosses the coast. Storm surge flooding of 4 to 7 feet above normal tide levels is expected in southern Chesapeake Bay.
Storm total rainfalls of 6 to 10 inches, with locally higher amounts, are likely along the path of the hurricane. Large ocean swells and dangerous surf conditions are being experienced along portions of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. These conditions will also continue over portions of the Bahamas for the next few days.
Some Leaving N.C. Coast; Evacuation Orders In Effect
With Hurricane Isabel bearing down, people on the North Carolina's coast have a choice to make.
Some have opted to pack their belongings and head to safer ground. Others have stocked up on beer and chips to ride out the storm at home.
"Well, we are slowly making our way inland," said Dan Smith, who wanted to get in one last kite flight before the storm hit.
Officials have urged more than 75,000 residents to leave the vulnerable Outer Banks, but a Dare County spokeswoman said people won't be forced to evacuate. She said the order was made Tuesday to give those who want to leave plenty of time before the storm hits.
Forecasters predict the area will begin feeling Isabel's strong winds Wednesday. The storm is expected to hit the Outer Banks sometime Thursday. Many Outer Banks residents and homeowners have been spending time boarding up their homes and tying up boats. Others have been enjoying the relative calm before the storm -- strolling on the beach and taking pictures of waves that ranged up to 8 feet high.
Carteret County officials have issued a mandatory evacuation of Bogue Banks, including Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach, Emerald Isle, low-lying areas and mobile homes effective 7 a.m. Wednesday. The area will be placed under a curfew at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The state Highway Patrol says there are no traffic jams, but a spike in activity is expected Wednesday as people flee the path of Hurricane Isabel.
Sergeant Everett Clendenin says the patrol brought 100 troopers to the Raleigh area to be dispatched to trouble spots. He says it's expected that some of those will be sent to northeastern North Carolina to handle the expected traffic flow off the Outer Banks.
Clendenin says there was an increase in traffic Tuesday starting at lunchtime, and the patrol expects more traffic later in the day.
Highway 12 is expected to be a major trouble spot when the storm hits.
"It's going to be a mess," said Harold Flowers, of the state Department of Transportation. "That water is going to come right over those dunes and blow that sand out into the road."
Seventy-eight patients were evacuated from a nursing home at tiny Sealevel, N.C., which is literally at sea level on Core Sound north of Cape Lookout. Many of the patients at the Carteret General Hospital home are in early stages of Alzheimers, and the staff's preparations included taking along movies that the residents are accustomed to watching.
"We're just going on a little vacation," nursing assistant Michelle Sanderling reassured 80-year-old Jane Condon as she was loaded onto an ambulance. "Everything's going to be alright."
Flood Watch Issued For Eastern N.C.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for coastal portions of eastern North Carolina until Friday morning.
Forecasters say heavy rain is expected over eastern North Carolina late tonight through Thursday evening as Hurricane Isabel affects the area.
Amounts up to 10 inches will be possible, mainly along and east of the track of the storm. Rainfall rates of several inches per hour are likely in heavier squalls and could produce flooding.
The weather service says persons in or near flood prone areas should be prepared to take action if rising water threatens.
Travel is being discouraged.
Hurricane Isabel is already causing some school closings.
Johnston County schools will be closed Thursday and Friday so that some schools can be used as shelters. Only essential personnel who have been notified should report to work.
Halifax County schools are closed Thursday as are Franklin County schools, but with an optional teacher workday. Pitt County schools are also closed Thursday. Starting at 2 p.m., classes at East Carolina University are canceled for the rest of the week.
More school closings are expected throughout the day.
Travelers Should Check Ahead
The best advice for people planning East Coast travel this week is to check it out ahead of time. Transportation companies say they may have to cut service as Hurricane Isabel approaches.
Amtrak officials announced that it is canceling all trains Thursday that provide service in North Carolina. No decisions have been made about train services for Friday.
Airlines haven't canceled flights yet, but they are making plans in case they have to. Officials at American Airlines, U.S. Airways and JetBlue said they will relax their reservation policies. That decision lets passengers in affected areas change the time or date of travel at no extra charge or penalty.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport is open, but passengers are asked to call their airlines for any changes.
Amtrak said it is doing the same thing for affected train travel.