Hurricane Isabel is heading on a track towards the Washington area after coming ashore along the outer banks of North Carolina. Isabel's 145-kilometer an hour maximum winds have diminished since the storm made landfall Thursday, but the hurricane continues to generate fierce winds and dump torrential rains.
More than a million people in North Carolina and Virginia are without electricity after Hurricane Isabel downed trees and power lines over a vast stretch of coastline. In addition to cutting power, the storm has flooded numerous communities, ripped up seaside piers, damaged roofs and storefronts, and sent debris hurtling through the air.
Officer Jimmy Barnes of the Virginia Beach police department says the damage he has witnessed is extensive. "[There is] A lot of wind damage, trees on houses, trees on cars, widespread power outages. Obviously our beachfront is being heavily pounded with sand blowing over our boardwalk," he explained.
Isabel is now a relatively weak Category One hurricane on a one-to-five scale, down from a Category Two hurricane when it first made landfall - and down from a Category Five hurricane just three days ago.
Meteorologists say further weakening is likely over the next 24 hours. But they add that Isabel remains a massive storm system capable of causing bodily injury and extensive property damage over a large stretches of the U.S. East Coast.
Isabel is moving to the north-northwest at about 40 kilometers an hour - a track that is expected to take the storm over Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Already, winds and rain have picked up markedly in the Washington area, where schools and government offices were closed Thursday in anticipation of the storm's arrival.