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Hurricane Isabel Pounds US East Coast - 2003-09-17


High winds and heavy seas from Hurricane Isabel are pounding the coastline of the U.S. State of North Carolina. With winds of about 175 kilometers an hour, Isabel is the strongest hurricane to strike the East Coast of the United States in four years.

Forecasters say that as it moves closer to shore Hurricane Isabel will probably accelerate and the states of North Carolina and Virginia will be feeling the full brunt of Isabel by midday Thursday. Forecaster Eric Drake at the National Hurricane Center in Miami says the region will experience high winds and extremely heavy rainfall.

"We are expecting a lot of rain. Sixteen centimeters of rain is certainly not out of the question," he said.

Forecasters say Isabel will maintain its strength as it moves ashore and they are predicting storm surges of at least three meters in some areas. Eric Drake at the National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storms impact will be made worse if a storm surge occurs at high tide.

"We are expecting seven to eleven feet [three-meters] above normal tide levels. And it depends on the tidal range which is a few feet [one-meter] in that area. If it [the storm] does come in at high tide it will exacerbate the problem," he said.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been told to evacuate coastal areas of North Carolina and Virginia, but as it moves ashore Isabel is expected to affect a wide area bringing high winds and flooding as far north as the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The governors of the states of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware have declared states of emergency. Federal authorities in Washington D.C. are drawing up emergency plans anticipating Isabel's impact.

Isabel is the strongest hurricane to strike the East Coast of the United States since Hurricane Floyd in 1999. That storm, which was similar to Isabel in size and strength, killed more than 50 people and caused more than $4 billion in damage.

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