Ryan’s Account of Hurricane Isabel

Posted on 1st November 2003 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring

Thursday September 18, 2003

10:30 AM – Doug calls to tell me I should move my car to the ODU parking lot. I debate this with my wife. ODU is a 15 minute walk away, I complain, and I might lose my hat.

10:45 AM – Mom calls me to tell me that the police have asked anyone not evacuating please write their name on their arm in permanent marker to make identifying their body easier.

11:00 AM – A large tree branch blocks our road. I run out to move it. Once finished, another falls behind me. I shrug and run back inside followed by the laughter of my neighbors.

11:45 AM – Power goes out right in the middle of watching “Soylent Green.” I discover my nextdoor neighbor’s tree has snapped at the base, damaging the side of their house and cutting the power line. Neighbor 3 houses down has a tree dropping branches onto his powerlines as well.

12:15 PM – Hear on the radio that a century old pier is gone. Not falling apart, or in shambles, it’s just not there anymore.

12:40 PM – I have noticed the cats no longer want to go outside. The frathouse across the street empties of all its members carrying innertubes, boogey boards, and beer toward the bay a few blocks down the street. Their names are “Brad,” “Josh,” “Derek”…

2:00 PM – I bravely venture outside for pictures of destruction, and quickly turn around and come back inside before getting two doors down the street.

3:45 PM – I cautiously venture out to remove the trees blocking my neighbor’s gate and door.

5:30 PM – I once again venture outside for pictures:

  • I heard what I thought was a thunderclap, but was actually a tree breaking in half nearby, crashing to the street.
  • The bay has swollen about 8 feet. All of the privately owned piers are submerged.
  • Water was fountaining out of the sewer grates.
  • Several Hurricane Parties were in progress. Beer’s were raised at me in salute.
  • My neighbor saw me leave and decided to follow.
  • Everywhere there are uprooted trees, downed powerlines, and a thick layer of debris plastering the street. I can smell natural gas in various places where uprooted trees pulled up and snapped the line.

6:15 PM – The tree smashed into my neighbor’s house has wedged itself down several feet deeper into the wood. Luckily, he was one of the few to evacuate.

7:00 PM – Mom calls to inform me the 14th street pier has collapsed. It was the location of several nightclubs.

8:45 PM – Went out into the dark to look around. Didn’t get very far.

9:00 PM – Radio announces that Isabelle has passed, leaving the entire Tidewater area without electricity.

10:00 PM – Fireworks heard out in the dark in celebration.

Friday Sept 19th

7:00 AM – Survey of the damage finds a smashed Ford Explorer, on Argall Street has 10 uprooted trees. The smell of natural gas is everywhere. The gas company cannot reach some line breaks due to downed trees.

10:00 AM – Neighbors return from inland Chesapeake, where they say the Natural Gas plant is on fire and lit up the sky all night.

Saturday Sept 20th – Driving around Norfolk is like running as a rat through a maze. Highwater, downed trees, and construction crews abound.

Sunday Sept 21st – People are starting to get irratable, the lack of electricity is tiresome.

Friday Sept 26th – Electricity is restored. Life returns to normal. Property taxes will skyrocket. Public disposal fees will leap. Landscappers will be booked for the next year… but otherwise life returns to normal.



“Chance Favors the Prepared Mind.”

Proof of Foolishness.


Argall Street.

More Argall Street.

Even More Argall Street.


There are easier ways to jack up a car.
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