HURRICANE ISABEL - SEPTEMBER 2003
by Philip Lutzak – November 2006
Although I felt only the final, weak
punch of Hurricane Isabel here in Brooklyn, New York, I lost more than I
expected from it, and it's all because of what it did to Baltimore,
Maryland. I have some good friends in Baltimore, and one of our favorite
places to spend an afternoon or evening there was
Miss Irene's, a corner pub in the
Fells Point section on the old waterfront. Miss Irene's was a fixture
from the older days and was one of the last unpretentious, old-style
institutions in a heavily "modernized" area. And then came Hurricane Isabel.
Although it had weakened from a stunning category 5 in the mid-Atlantic to a category 2
at landfall in Cape Hatteras, its fury was still immense and its track from that
point focused an historic
storm surge directly into the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River Basins.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the water levels broke the
previous records established in the historic
Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933 at Washington, D.C., Baltimore and
Annapolis. Baltimore had a record storm surge of 8-9 feet, and most
buildings in the beautiful Fells Point section on the bay front had
water waist deep or higher into their first floors (figure 1, right.) Although most of them have been cleaned up and
restored in the ensuing 3 years, Miss Irene's had so much flood damage
that it succumbed for good, and now is only a great memory among those
of us who enjoyed a drink there.
Figure 1. Struggling through
the floodwaters in the Fells Point section of Baltimore, MD after Hurricane Isabel. Courtesy
In this report I will explain how a
small swirl of clouds moving off the African coast can build into a
monstrous category 5 hurricane, and how such a storm can come all the way
across the Atlantic, far from where it was born, to wipe out lives and
property, including my favorite little
bar in Baltimore, Maryland.
|Figure 2. Isabel's
powerful storm surge carved a new inlet through Cape Hatteras Island
south of Frisco, NC. Courtesy
||Figure 3. Large sections of Highway
12 on the Outer Banks were demolished. Courtesy Patrick Schneider,
and 3 above are images of the destruction
Hurricane Isabel wreaked at
Hatteras Island, North Carolina.
Landing as a category 2 storm, Isabel carved
huge breach in the barrier island at Hatteras Island, North Carolina
(figure 2), and
washed away large sections of the highway that runs along the barrier
there (figure 3).
|Figure 4. House goes
into the sea at Buxton, north of Cape Hatteras, NC. Courtesy
||Figure 5. Downtown
Annapolis, MD, under water. Courtesy
||Figure 6. Hurricane waves batter
Avalon, NJ. Courtesy
Figure 4 shows more of the destruction
caused by Isabel at Hatteras Island, NC.
Isabel continued inland and
just southwest of the
Chesapeake Bay area. As the
storm continued inland, it
caused flood and wind damage that extended from Hatteras all the way
northward to Virginia, Maryland (figure 5), western Pennsylvania and New
Jersey (figure 6). Here's the
NHC report on Isabel. There were also 2 tornadoes caused by the
landfalling hurricane: see the
storm report for 09/18/2003.
An Easterly Wave