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Bobby & Barbara Barbour; Commentary and Photos

We have lived in Poquoson since August 1971. We have observed many storms over the years; however there had never been water across our driveway before. With this storm water measured 14 inches under the carport with 12 inches in our garage. We consider our selves fortunate because no water came inside our house.

We heard the police microphone from Ren's Road Wednesday night warn all residents close to the water to evacuate due to the impending storm but we chose to stay at home and I'm glad we did; however we appreciate what the police were trying to do.

"Isabel" arrived early Thursday morning around 9:00 o'clock with the loss of power. That was when I noticed a large limb from a pecan tree in one of our neighbors yard had fallen across our neighbors driveway and our driveway. Taking down the power lines and becoming entwined with the phone and cable lines plus eliminating access to two more neighbors.

My husband being a retired electrician walked down the driveway in the rain with machete in hand. Once he determined that the electrical primary (cut-out) had disconnected which meant the line was dead. He started chopping up the tree limbs and trying to free the cable and telephone lines. Once the neighbor saw him working to remove the tree limb (and was not electrocuted) he pitched in to help. Some friend attached a truck to the downed tree limb and freed the cable and phone lines. This also cleared the driveway in case anyone wanted to evacuate or get last minute supplies. He came back to the house for dry clothes and awaits the next crisis, which didn't take long.

With no TV to keep us informed I located a battery-powered radio. I surfed the radio channels for status of "Isabel". With no power and no house phone and no radio station dedicated to informing the many of us left with no storm information I turned to my cell phone and called my sister-in-law in Lake Gaston to get the status of "Isabel". I called her about every 15 minutes until my cell phone stopped working in side the house.

At 11 :00 o'clock I was standing in the window sill (watching the storm) when I noticed the water was beginning to come across the front of our lot. I inquired when was high tide and was told about 3:30 pm.

I was looking out the window again when I noticed during the rising tide the front lines to our boat that was anchored at our dock broke lose. My husband waded and swam out and attached a stronger rope to the front of the boat and tied it to a cedar tree nearby. Then the tree blew over. The boat still remained attached thru the entire storm.

Later as I was walking thru the den I noticed the smell of gasoline coming from the garage. Lo and behold the lawnmowers, hedge trimmers and gas cans were afloat. So we hurriedly moved everything we could up above the 12 inches of water that was in our garage.

After the water crested and the wind changed directions and picked up intensity, the dock board with the anchor attached to the back of the boat pulled away from the dock. Allowing the boat to swing around in the middle of the yard. My husband went swimming a second time diving under the water and attaching a rope to the beams running under the dock. Finally with rope in hand he swam to the back of the boat and attached it to an anchor on the boat. With the wind howling and the rain coming down in sheets he proceeded by his self at age "67" to push the 26 foot old wooden boat between the dock opening. During this time the water was receding at an alarming rate. Finally he got the boat tied back in its original resting place. As he came wading back to the house completely exhausted I could only thank God that "Isabel" came during the day time hours.

I continued to try to stay in touch with family and friends thru my cell phone. I discovered if I was outside the house on the front porch I could make a connection. I talked with my sister-in-law for a few minutes in Lake Gaston so they knew we were all right. I talked to my cousin in Newport News and my daughter in Maryland. I finally reached my daughter in Poquoson on her husbands cell phone. The reception was not very good but good enough to know they were all alive and well and water came within 2 inches of entering their house.

With darkness approaching I located all our oil lamps and lit them, which provided minimal light. Light enough to move from room to room without running into a table, chair or something.

Bedtime came early with no TV, so back to my battery radio for news of the storm. I finally recognized Jeff Lawson's voice. He was giving the TV weather forecast and it was being broadcast over WCMS. It was very good to hear the storm had reached land and was somewhere between Southampton and Emporia headed north. However after the weather forecast the radio returned to playing music. I was disappointed because I wanted to know what has happened since "Isabel" had come ashore and what to expect like how fast was it traveling, what were the wind speeds in other areas and if it was changing directions. If tornados were being spawned and what was their location. I personally think due to the fact that we were living in a emergency condition with no means of communication but our battery powered radio that in the future at least one of the many radio stations we have on the Peninsula be designated to emergency information only. I was listening to one of the music playing stations when someone from Poquoson called in with an important message she was trying to get out such as, you can get a bath at the Y in York county YMCA, or dinner at a church, or ice was being distributed at City Hall the next day, when the radio announcer broke in, while she was trying to inform the people in this emergency and said, “Honey you will have to hurry I can’t give you much more time”. I was appalled. If I knew the radio station identification I would report them to the FCC.

In my radio surfing I did find a station out of Elizabeth City, N.C. called "Beaches Talk Radio". There was two announcers that let anyone within earshot call in with questions such as is there school tomorrow or who has gas, ice, etc and where are they located. Who has trees across their driveway and have no chainsaw. Who has no water and need it. The Red Cross called in with advice_ the Police Chief from various locations gave information. It appeared to be the kind of information we needed on this Peninsula. Poquoson had no means of mass communications so we used 4 by 8 sheets of plywood and word of mouth. We survived even though our battery radios did not support the emergency in my opinion, as they should have.

However like most residents of Poquoson when we awoke Friday (9-19-03) morning we had no phones or electricity but we soon discovered that during the night 1/4 of our roof up stairs was ripped back just like when you pull your bed covers back. As the rain soaked through the insulation and started dripping in the den floor downstairs we began putting buckets under the leaks to catch the water.

Then we began to think about how to make coffee without power. Suddenly I remembered my daughter who lives in Poquoson and has a gas stove. So we gather up eggs and cheese and coffee and head to her house where we enjoyed many joint meals. Her father-in-law soon arrived with coffee and insulated pots to transport his coffee back home. Thank goodness for gas stoves and gas hot water heaters.

After breakfast we started cleaning up the yard. We spent all day talking to neighbors picking up pine combs and twigs, partial limbs from trees and hauling it to the trash pile. In the afternoon my neighbor said her phone was working. I ran inside and sure enough so was ours. I immediately called the insurance company and informed them of our status. I also call the FEMA people.

For lunch and dinner we had cold sandwiches and thankful for them. Another early to bed and more battery radio surfing finding the same no information that was useful during this emergency such as status of where to get gas, ice, etc.

Saturday (9-20-03) morning we went back to our daughter and son-in-law's house for breakfast. We continued to wash out the garage and layout stuff to dry and haul more stuff to the trash pile. Two of our neighbor's had extensive flood damage. Water came up 31 inches inside their house. We knew we had a lot to be thankful for. One of those neighbors loaned us a small generator to run our refrigerator on. We suddenly discovered we had no extra lawn mower gas to run the generator. We drained all the lawnmowers and gas powered motors we could find and that amounted to about 5 gallons, not enough to keep the generator running to support the refrigerator very long.

With our house phones working I contacted my daughter and told her I would make room in the freezer for her meats she might lose. She brought over a cooler full and we loaded them in the freezer. Her other refrigerator goods were home in coolers laden with frozen water bottles from her freezer that was ruined when the water entered her garage about 24 inches. More cold sandwiches for lunch but for dinner we merged our food and cooked hot chicken on the gas grill, our first hot dinner since Wednesday night before the storm. Early to bed and more battery radio surfing with the same results. Beaches radio station from Elizabeth City, N.C. was the only one working with listeners to locate gas, ice etc.

Sunday (9-21-03) morning same routine for breakfast, afterwards we began to look for gas for our generator. My granddaughter had left her car in our driveway for some needed repairs so my husband attempted to siphon out the gas but we didn't have the right kind of hose for the job, since we don't usually go around trying to siphon gas from cars. However we were still in survival mode so he removed the entire gas tank from the car drained it of gas and reinstalled it. Five (5) gallons more gas for the generator.

I called a girl friend of mine from Newport News that was at her daughter's house in York County that had electricity to see if they had any extra gas for a lawnmower we might borrow. They brought us five (5) gallons more.

My neighbor came down the driveway and told me they were distributing ice at City Hall. I go to get into my car only to realize there is water in the floorboard back and front. I remove as much water as I can then drive thru the very organized maze at city hall and pick up ice and bagels. I drove to my daughter's house and inform her and her neighbors of the ice at City Hall. This was the first time in all my (65) years that I have had to accept assistance. However I appreciate the way the city and their employees and volunteer were working in support of this City.

Another hot dinner at my daughter's house again. Almost normal except when it got dark and early to bed and more radio surfing. However, I'm very thankful after seeing and hearing other people of Poquoson's problems.

Monday (9-22-03) was a very eventful day. We discover Zoom's was pumping gas. We fill up our car and got gas for the generator. No long lines and everyone were very orderly. We receive a call from a long time friend who lives in Newport News. He says he has gotten his power back and will loan us his 6000 watt generator but we will have to come and get it. We tell him we will be there soon.

With the larger generator and extra gas my husband powered up the hot water heater and some receptacles so I could wash a load of clothes and dishes. And most of all it allowed us to activate the grinder pump which pumps out our septic tank into the city system which was becoming a real concern after 5 days with no power.

In the afternoon the FEMA agent and our homeowner's insurance adjuster arrives and assesses our damage. The insurance agent tells us we will here from him within a week. And we did hear from both just as they said.

Tuesday (9-23-03) was our last day without power. It arrived Wednesday (9-24-03) afternoon at 5:30 p.m.

I would like to thank the Daily Press for the continues coverage with valuable information during this emergency. We received our paper every day and on time.

Since "Isabel" arrived and left us powerless it has been quite an experience. One I hope never to experience again.

Barbara Barbour

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