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No Rest for Storm-Tossed East

On Hurricane Isabel's heels, a new weather system causes more flooding, power outages and damage from Virginia to New Jersey.

September 24, 2003|From Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — The East Coast's recovery from Hurricane Isabel was dealt a setback Tuesday by another round of storms that caused renewed flooding, flattened trees that had withstood the hurricane and knocked out power to thousands of customers, some for the second time.

A tornado touched down along a four-county path that crossed Richmond.

"Isabel was gravy compared to this guy," Richmond resident James Whitaker said. "We went down and got in the closet downstairs and stayed in it."

No injuries were reported from the twister, part of a weather system that also caused damage in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Isabel was blamed for at least 38 deaths, 23 of them in Virginia.

About 40,000 customers lost power in Virginia on Tuesday, some for the second time since Isabel struck last week.

"I just restocked my refrigerator last night. This is just so unreal," said Renee Knight, whose neighborhood lost power during Isabel for about 20 hours.

Before the storms arrived, Virginia's main utility, Dominion Virginia Power, said it had restored electricity to two-thirds of the 1.8 million customers who lost service during Isabel.

Weary of living without electricity for five days, Joy Melvin had taken her 20-month-old daughter and moved in with a friend, Keisha Gilchrist, in a section of Richmond that was little affected by the hurricane.

On Tuesday, a tree slammed onto the roof above the bedroom where they slept.

"We ran from upstairs," Melvin said.

The storms dumped about 4 inches of rain in parts of Maryland, where some of the same roads flooded by Isabel were underwater again, and some schools closed.

The rain also exacerbated flooding at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, where Isabel flooded classrooms and laboratories, destroying electrical systems and classroom computers and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage on the military college's waterfront campus.

Half of the academy's classroom space was still unusable Tuesday and midshipmen had to use the auditorium, field house and basketball arena for some classes, said Cmdr. Rod Gibbons, an academy spokesman.

"We're in disaster recovery here at the academy," said Gibbons, who stressed that the buildings -- some of which date to the early 1900s -- are structurally fine.

Baltimore-area power outages had been reduced to about 133,000 customers since Isabel but went up again by about 50,000, said Rob Gould of the Baltimore-area utility BGE.

"The rain is going to slow but not stop some of the work on power repairs," said Ed McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

The storms caused no new damage in North Carolina, where Isabel struck land and where 46,800 customers were still waiting for electricity.

To the north, Tuesday's storm blacked out about 20,000 customers in southern New Jersey and about 34,000 in Pennsylvania. Tornadoes were spotted in two New Jersey counties.

As the storms swept into Lawrence, N.J., outside Trenton, Alessia Leutz watched a gray wall of windblown rain coming down her street.

"All the trees were just going, it sounded horrible," Leutz said. "It was insane. I was so freaked out."

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