Residents along Carolina coast assess fallout after Isaias thunders ashore as a deadly hurricane
AccuWeather's Jonathan Petramala was at Oak Island, North Carolina, as Hurricane Isaias brought severe flooding, wind, and tornado warnings on Aug. 3.
Isaias thundered ashore as a hurricane on the North Carolina coast late Monday night, bringing 85-mph sustained winds, heavy rains, a flooding storm surge, power outages for hundreds of thousands all while spinning up deadly tornadoes.
By Tuesday afternoon, at least two fatalities had been blamed on Isaias, which was downgraded overnight to a tropical storm. As the weather cleared up, people across North Carolina and Virginia began to assess the damage while Isaias blitzed up toward the mid-Atlantic, still packing 70-mph winds and moving 35 mph.
The storm regained hurricane status on Monday at 8 p.m., just in time for the ninth-named storm of the busy 2020 season to strike the town of Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, with direct landfall at 11:10 p.m., local time.
Combined satellite loops tracks Isaias growth into a hurricane, back to a tropical storm and then back to a hurricane where it made landfall in North Carolina.
At the time of its hurricane status upgrade, Isaias was whipping the coast as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph.
The former hurricane spawned numerous tornadoes, including one devastatingly deadly twister in the town of Windsor that struck a mobile home park. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper confirmed the one known fatality on Tuesday morning, noting that a number of others from the mobile park were injured and missing as well. By noon, a second fatality had been confirmed as well as 12 other individuals were taken to the hospital, according to WAVY News.
“It is with heavy hearts that we acknowledge and confirm information that has been posted in several public Facebook postings about a tornado that touched down in the Morning Road area of Windsor earlier this morning,” the Bertie County Government shared on Facebook. “We are asking that our community allow us time to gather and properly verify more information from the various law enforcement agencies and first responders still working to secure the area.”
Hurricane-force wind gusts were reported as the eyewall came ashore Monday night, with the highest gust, 99 mph, reported over land coming from Federal Point, North Carolina. Frying Pan Shoals, located off the Atlantic coast and sitting at an elevation about 80 feet above the ocean surface, recorded a 93 mph wind gust as Isaias moved overhead. Farther north, York River East, Virginia saw a wind gust of 94 mph.
The approach of the intense storm spawned the formation of a tornado that touched down on Bald Head Island in North Carolina. In central Virginia, the Courtland Volunteer Fire Department reported a possible tornado touchdown shortly after 4:30 a.m. as they urged residents to stay off roads and reported that Route 58 is closed in both directions.
Numerous other tornado warnings were issued across eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia as rain bands from Isaias spiraled inland from the Atlantic Ocean throughout the late night.
The strong winds knocked down trees throughout North Carolina and Virginia, spreading widespread debris and leaving as many as 677,095 residents without power earlier Tuesday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.
In Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, the town where Isaias made direct landfall, the hurricane triggered multiple home fires due to widespread flooding and electrical issues that ensued through the night. According to the Horry County Fire Rescue, the fires began at 11:40 p.m., shortly after Isaias made landfall.
Mayor Debbie Smith told WECT News that four separate fires were burning on Driftwood Drive and on East 4th Street. She added that flooding reached three feet in some portions of the community.
Up the coast in Beaufort County, where popular vacation spot Hilton Head is located, photos shared on social media by the North Carolina Department of Transportation South Coast showed washed out roads from extensive flooding. Previously, the Sheriff’s Office had asked all residents to stay inside and refrain from driving on Monday.
Flooding concerns and damage from the heavy winds preceded the hurricane's arrival, as floodwaters trapped cars in Ocean Isle Beach and strong winds damaged several buildings in nearby Southport.
In Virginia, tornado warnings had spread throughout Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Surry, south Norfolk, James City, York County and Gloucester County on Tuesday morning. According to 13 News Now, storm damage has been reported in the Suffolk area as fallen trees litter the road.
During the overnight hours, AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala appeared live on the TV network from the eye of the storm in Oak Island, North Carolina. Petramala was standing in knee-deep water that had rushed in from the storm surge. He said he was about three blocks from the beach and that he could see various types of debris floating by in the darkness as the storm surge pulled ocean water inland.
Petramala said "extremely strong gusts and sustained wind [were] blasting out of the east and southeast as the hurricane started to make landfall." As the camera panned, Petramala told viewers, "You can see this relentless surge coming in off the beach, which is around three blocks" away. "The storm surge coincided with," Petramala said with winds howling into his handheld microphone, "an abnormally high lunar surge as well."
Earlier, as the eyewall was coming ashore and Isaias' fury was at full intensity, Petramala captured video of a small deer running from the blinding rain and whipping wind. The top wind gust recorded on Oak Island hit 87 mph.
AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala reporting from the eye of Isaias in Oak Island, North Carolina, at around midnight on Aug. 4, 2020. (AccuWeather)
On Monday, Gov. Cooper urged people on Twitter to heed the state warnings in order to stay safe from not only the hurricane but also the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s essential to listen to local officials and follow evacuation orders when they are issued,” Cooper said. “During the pandemic, your home has been the safest place, but that may change as Isaias arrives. The most important thing is to get out of harm’s way if you are told to evacuate.”
In its Monday advisory, the NHC issued a hurricane warning from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Surf City, North Carolina. The storm was moving north-northeast at 16 mph. As the day progressed into the night, the storm continued to speed up its northward progression, tracking towards the mid-Atlantic at over 20 mph.
On Ocracoke Island in North Carolina, evacuation mandates were issued on Friday. Officials in Hyde County, the area that was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Dorian last year, ordered residents to evacuate on Saturday.
Mandatory evacuations were enacted for nearby Hatteras Island in Dare County as well. The national parks in the area, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Wright Brothers National Memorial, were both closed on Monday ahead of the storm's impacts.
Isaias was deemed a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes due to the projected flooding downpours and damaging winds.
To prepare for those potential floods, cities throughout the East Coast offered free sandbags to residents. In Charleston, South Carolina, a limit of 10 bags per car was applied to residents.
On Monday morning, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg issued an emergency ordinance to close certain streets for flooding safety precautions and to set curfews if needed.
Preparation efforts have extended far beyond the Southeast coast as well, as officials in Baltimore made sandbags available, encouraged residents to move their cars off the street and requested for homeowners to clear storm drains to help with the water runoff.
In New Jersey, coastal towns and cities have begun preparing for the wind and rain impacts which will arrive on Tuesday. Boaters in the Garden State, along with boaters from New York and Connecticut, were urged by the Coast Guard to prepare for possible high surf, heavy wind and coastal flooding.
Tropical storm warnings extended as far north as Boston on Monday, with tropical storm watches in effect through the central Maine coast. (AccuWeather)
A tropical storm warning was also enacted for New York City, which could endure its second storm of the season following Tropical Storm Fay in early July. According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham, this would mark the first time since 1985 that the state endured two named storms so close in the same season. Projections on Monday showed that Isaias could pass within 30 miles of New York City after Fay came within 15 miles of the Big Apple in July.
AccuWeather founder and CEO Joel N. Myers said Isaias could cause between $2 billion and $3 billion in damage and economic loss as the storm charges up the Eastern Seaboard.
Projections for Isaias have fluctuated in recent days as the storm weakened to a tropical storm on Saturday afternoon near the coast of Florida. However, in the days prior, its impacts were certainly felt through the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.
The National Guard rescued at least 35 people who were swept away in floodwaters in Puerto Rico, harkening memories of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
At least two deaths were blamed on Isaias' impacts in the Dominican Republic, Reuters reported. Civil Defense officials said 53-year-old Chiche Peguero was killed by a high-voltage power line that fell in Río San Juan. On Thursday, a 5-year-old boy was also killed after a tree crushed his home, according to elCaribe, a local news organization.
There were no fatalities from Isaias in the Bahamas, a much-appreciated relief for the island that is still recovering from Dorian last summer. However, heavy flooding and 70-mph winds did leave most of the island’s residents, many of whom are also without power, a lot to clean up. Adrian Gibson, a local government official, posted on Facebook and noted the extensive damage suffered by farmers and the severe hit some crops took from Isaias.
AccuWeather users can track Isaias from home using our local hurricane tracker pages that provide detailed information about a specific location. Click on the city name to track how Isaias will impact each place as it churns northward: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Hilton Head, South Carolina; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Ocean City, New Jersey; New York City; and Boston, Massachusetts.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Petramala and Bill Wadell.
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