The power went out minutes after I posted the last message, about 10:03 thursday sept 18. It finally came back on this morning at 05:30. It was the longest I can ever remember being without power, aside from camping
After the power went, things got progressively worse as the storm came in. Though downgraded to a borderline cat 2 at landfall, it still packed quite a wallop, and did severe damage on the NC outer banks. Several new inlets were created, and many beachfront houses destroyed by the combination of wind and water. It will be weeks before that area is anywhere close to normal. The roadways are broken up and/or buried in sand, services are down and damaged almost completely, and access is very limited.
As for Hampton Roads, we have just had the worst storm anyone can remember. In Fox Hill, which is one of the lowest-lying neigborhoods in Hampton, one friend of a friend had a mark where the water came up in the 1962 storm, which was previously the worst in memory. Isabel bested that mark by at least a foot.
Many homes were flooded, but the worst damage came from the trees. After a very wet summer, with 10" above normal rainfall, the ground was pretty well soaked. Then 70-80 kt winds were all that was needed to rip trees out by the roots, and lay them over on houses, across roads, and across power and phone lines.
In our neighborhood, flooding was not an issue. We are pretty well elevated here, so storm tidal surges were not able to get this far, and we really did not get that much rainfall from the storm, so no flash flooding either. But wind we got. In fact, we got one of the strongest recorded gusts in the area, 82 kts.
The evidence is all through the neigborhood. A house around the corner was bisected by a large tree. Several had minor to moderate damage from either close calls with trees or just wind ripping off shingles and siding. One house nearby was hit with two big trees, shearing off one whole side, and smashing the roof in, as well as crushing a car in the driveway.
Several trees right near me were ripped down, but didn't appear to hit anything. My neighbor next door lost his entire fence, but it was kinda rotten anyway and due for replacement, so that just accelerated his plans.
We were very lucky. The only damage we incurred was a broken fence section from the neighbor's tree falling. Luckily, the one that fell was a fairly short dead trunk. The two trees on either side of it held. If either of those fell, it would have definitely damaged our house, and to a pretty large degree.
With so much of the area dark, it was kind of a new pleasure to gaze at the stars. Not to many other options for entertainment were available. I re-discovered my scanner and shortwave radios, which had not seen a lot of use lately. Acoustic guitars still worked, and I built up some finger callouses that had gotten soft from playing electric all the time.
Improvised cooking using the gas grill (not so good for heating pots!) and a home brew camping stove that burns army surplus Triox tablets kept us in hot canned food and MRE's I had saved for such an occasion. The neighbors who had meat in their freezers cooked it all up and passed it around. We had laid in a supply of canned food, bottled water, nuts, and fresh fruit and cereal, which helped too.
Our water supply is still contaminated, and so it is usable for washing and bathing, but must be boiled or treated with bleach to consume. That advisory should be lifted by tomorrow.
So we survived our worst storm, got out very very lucky, and only with minor inconvenience. If I was a praying man, I suppose I would thank someone, but since I am not, I'll just enjoy my good fortune and see what I can do to help my less fortunate neighbors. It might be me next time.