On September 18, 2003, Hurricane Isabel roared onto shore in North Carolina making a march of destruction through the Outer Banks and Hampton Roads.
In her wake, there were damaged homes and power outages for weeks and a prolonged clean-up.
“Probably the biggest thing was the debris and there was just millions of dollars of debris to be cleaned up,” says Coordinator of Emergency Management Mark Marchbank.
Now a decade later, Hurricane Isabel remains one of the worst storms we’ve seen in quite some time. In Virginia Beach, the intervening years have been spent learning from Isabel.
“It was a fairly significant event in terms of its size and its impact, and it was certainly a great learning experience and it raised a number of issues to continue to work on over the years,” says Marchbank.
Marchbank says technology has changed vastly in 10 years.
“We have satellite phones, we`re taking advantage of technology such as the reverse calling, Twitter, Facebook – they`re all part of the package now in terms of communicating with the public,” says Marchbank.
But Isabel also raised other issues.
“We`re more cognizant of providing sheltering and particularly sheltering for people that have functional needs – it`s those items that have been better planned for,” says Marchbank.
One big lesson that Virginia Beach learned was in the Southern part of the city where it had to deal with distributing water. A lot of the houses there rely on wells and days without electricity meant very little access to water.
As a result, Virginia Beach found itself distributing ice and water in the days after Isabel for the first time. Now ten years later, they conduct distribution drills to be ready just in case a storm greater than Isabel blows through.