- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Those weren’t buoys bobbing in the muddy waters of the Potomac yesterday as Hurricane Isabel waltzed into town. They were hearty souls in wet suits, windsurfing.

And the two guys taking turns yanking five-pound catfish out of the river had nothing to gain but some kudos for bravery and a freezer full of seafood.

The few, the proud, the die-hards.

While reporters and weather hounds fretted about the doom approaching the East Coast, while the federal government shuttered its doors and Metro halted its trains, deliveries were made, outdoor markets flourished, mail was distributed and even delivery services kept a steady schedule, from national giants such as United Parcel Service and FedEx to the smaller locals.

“No, we’d never let a little weather stop us,” said Victor Watts, a dispatcher for Network Courier Service, whose Alexandria office stayed open yesterday. He promised to keep the place going as long as clients had something to be delivered.

One of its delivery trucks blew past Stephen Johnson and Cliff Troy, government workers who had grabbed their head-to-toe rainproof gear, three pints of clam snouts as bait and a portable tape player, and headed for the river across from Hains Point.

“The low pressure drives the fish to the shallow water,” Mr. Troy said between sprays of rain and river water. He’d been waiting all summer for this, he said, arriving at 9:30 a.m. and staying until …

“Until Mother Nature says we have to leave,” he said.

As the two fished, forecasters announced it was 67 degrees and that the rainfall was “going to get a lot worse.”

It would have to get really bad to close Jessie Taylor Seafood, part of the Southwest Seafood Markets off Washington Channel.

All of the shops were packed in the morning, and enough people came along through the day to keep the owners happy.

The tables full of grouper, bluefish, red snapper and trout kept selling, and Jason Evans kept working.

“It will take a lot to close us down,” said Mr. Evans, who opened the place at 7:30 a.m. He had more than a passing interest in Isabel, as he lives in Ocean City.

He knows the disaster drill, so he sent his wife and 6-month-old son inland before coming to work. Living in this area, he knows that tropical disturbances happen.

But as a die-hard, Mr. Evans just pushed on.

“If we can hold on until 9 tonight, we’ll stay open,” he said.

The two windsurfers navigating the Potomac — which was supposedly closed to boaters — bounced off the rippling waves as they tried to catch some of Isabel’s power.

Even the president, who has been linked to die-hards and is known for his tough-guy persona, skipped a Thursday breakfast appearance and headed for Camp David on Wednesday evening.

In his place, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at the Small Business Administration’s 50th-anniversary celebration yesterday at the Washington Hilton and Towers.

By late in the day, as stoplights began to lose power, the District’s downtown streets looked as though they had seen a ghost.

Its name, apparently, was Isabel.

Marguerite Higgins contributed to this report.

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