Recalling Isabel

Published 10:45 pm Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season spawned deadly Hurricane Isabel, Hampton Roads would bear its brunt on Sept. 18. By the following day, many people in Suffolk were already miserable. For many, the misery was to continue for many days.

It was 10 years ago Wednesday the Category 2 system made landfall on North Carolina’s Outer Banks before churning inland and north.

Shoppers out and about in North Suffolk recalled their experiences on the anniversary. They were among the fortunate ones.

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Ricky Higgins, 58, said he worked at Fort Eustis at the time. The facility manager of a large building, he said he spent three days managing a backup generator.

“And then at home … we didn’t have power for 12 or 14 days,” he said. “Yeah, it was a mess, it wasn’t much fun.”

The family ate everything out of the freezer before starting on canned food.

“I’m sure it could happen again,” Higgins said. “You can’t fool mother nature.”

Julie Johnson, 48, living in Chesapeake, said they “lost a lot of trees.”

“We were out of power for a few days, but overall we did OK, though,” Johnson said, adding that “people trying to rip us off for repairs” was the most trying aspect of the overall Isabel experience.

“People ‘volunteered’ to help us with our trees for huge amounts of money,” she said. “It was difficult.”

The experience has made her take reports of impending hurricanes more seriously.

“When they say it’s coming, you believe them a little bit more,” Johnson said.

Living in Franklin, Miriam Chaffee, 50, said she lost two pine trees out of her front yard and power for two weeks.

“We used the grill to cook,” she said. “We had the Y close by that we could take showers. We were blessed.”

She said she moved her car “just before the trees fell down.”

“We had a flood in Franklin before that, but that one affected me more than the flood did,” she said.

Monica Hackney, 64, was living in Burbage Grant. She said she worked for the health department with the city of Chesapeake, and was part of a team sent around to eateries to ensure compliance with regulations.

“You know, whether they had a generator, whether they had thrown away all their stuff,” she said.

The worst thing about five days without power was the heat, she said. “For a change, I actually had gassed up my car,” she said. “My neighbor’s generator was getting on my nerves big time.”

Lory Osfolk owns the Bier Garden in Portsmouth, which she said was closed for about a week. “We had to get rid of a lot of food we had prepared already,” she said. “At home we lost electricity, and the storm was very bad.”

Isabel was the worst weather event she had experienced in her 70 years, Osfolk said. “I think there was a really bad one here when we were still in Germany,” she said. “1960-something?”

Jamila Allen’s recollection of the hurricane was “water everywhere.” Like many others, she said her family broke out the grill, hooked up a generator and cooked all their perishable food.

Bernard Perry actually had one fond recollection of Hurricane Isabel.

“The only good thing about that is I had a niece that was born that night,” he said.