- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2003

TOPSAIL BEACH, N.C. (AP) — Residents up and down the East Coast boarded up windows with plywood, hauled their boats inland and stocked up on generators, batteries and flashlights yesterday as fearsome Hurricane Isabel churned toward land with winds howling at 125 mph.

Forecasters said Isabel should hit anywhere from North Carolina to New Jersey late Thursday or early Friday with sustained wind of up to 130 mph.

Even though the storm was still at least three days away, coastal residents were already taking precautions, and the Navy faced a decision whether to move Atlantic Fleet ships out of harm’s way.

In Dover, Del., B.J. Whittaker snapped up 10 sheets of plywood at a Lowe’s home-improvement store. “I can’t do anything if the roof blows off, but I can keep my windows from getting broken,” he said.

At 11 p.m. EDT yesterday, Isabel was centered about 710 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and was moving northwest at about 7 mph.

The storm weakened yesterday to a Category 3 with sustained wind blowing at 125 mph, with higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center said. On Sunday, Isabel’s top wind hit 160 mph, making it a Category 5 storm.

Isabel is the first major hurricane to threaten the Mid-Atlantic area since Floyd wreaked havoc on the East Coast in September 1999, leading to 56 deaths.

All 921 residents of Ocracoke Island in North Carolina’s vulnerable Outer Banks were ordered to begin evacuating yesterday afternoon. A line quickly formed at the ferry pier.

The evacuation was ordered because of fear that already rising swells could wash out parts of the island highway and maroon some residents. But the sky was still sunny and the weather was generally pleasant.

On other islands of the Outer Banks, residents started boarding windows, moving their vessels inland and checking generators.

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