- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2003

COLUMBIA, N.C. — Johnnie Mae Marner had greater worries yesterday than her submerged car, and flooded porch and yard. During the height of Hurricane Isabel, her husband of more than 40 years died at the kitchen table.

“His heart just stopped,” said Mrs. Marner, 68, after returning from the church where she was making funeral arrangements.

Vincent Marner, 67, had been stricken with colon cancer for awhile, and his family said his death was not directly related to the storm. But the storm did not help.

“It took the emergency people 20 minutes to get here,” said son Ray, 37, standing on the side of Kohloss Street, half of which was still submerged in 6-inch-deep water.

“I have never seen anything like this. I’ve lived here in this house for over 40 years and [in Columbia] for all my life. It’s just devastating,” said Mrs. Marner, before putting on tennis shoes to wade through the water to get to her front door.

The entire front yard of the Marner house and an old blue Cadillac parked in the front yard were submerged. The interior of the house suffered only “minor” damage, according to Mrs. Marner, when the walls of the back room leaked and water ebbed into the front screened-in porch.

But that still took time away from more pressing matters.

“With everything else that was going on, we had to sweep and mop up the porch and carpet,” said Cherry Basight, 17, the Marners’ grandson who lives with them.

Neighbors on Kohloss Street dealing with their own flooding concerns were saddened and surprised to hear the news.

“I looked outside in the wind and rain and wondered what an ambulance was doing here,” said next-door neighbor Diane White, 27, standing trapped on her porch as her entire yard — front and back — was under about 6 inches of water.

“[Mrs. Marner] was devastated when it happened though. She took such good care of him, and they were best friends,” added Ms. White, whose son, Treyon Moore, suffered his own losses.

“All my toys were on the front porch and they are gone,” said Treyon, 5. “And I lost my tooth too, but the tooth fairy up in the sky hasn’t come yet.”

Columbia, 50 miles west of Nags Head, N.C., in Tyrell County on the Albemarle Sound, also dealt with downed power lines and fallen trees, as did most of the small communities along Route 64, the main artery into Nags Head.

Linda Harroll, 47, of nearby Plymouth, was grateful the only damage to her two-story house was exterior flooding. She and her daughters spent much of the day helping neighbors who were worse off.

“What am I going to do, sit home and be bored?” she said.

Her daughter, Brittany, 17, a volunteer with the Plymouth Fire Department, said “[The front yard] is a disaster. So there is nothing really we could do but go help other people.”

Fallen trees blocked many of the roads in the region, causing long delays for those traveling the back roads to get home, help victims or examine the damage. Many of the homes and buildings, still vacant because owners heeded warnings to get out, were left unscathed — almost as if someone was watching out.

Two large trees in front of the United Methodist Church in Roper fell to the sides, leaving the church untouched and forming a V of debris around the sides.

Residents of Dare County, which includes Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills — where the storm damaged hotels, flooded streets and caused massive power outages — won’t be allowed back until at least noon today. The sheriff’s office was only allowing “essential personnel” into the area.

“I can’t even let people in who live two miles over [the bridge which connects Tyrell and Dare counties] because the roads are so bad. … They are going to have to wait for at least another 24 hours,” Deputy Terri King said yesterday as he stood guard at the border between the two counties.

Farther north in the Great Bridge section of Chesapeake, Va., power had been restored to some areas by midday yesterday, but the major problem facing people was long lines at the gas pumps.

The terminal that supplies gas to most of the area is in south Norfolk and was still without power. As a result, gas stations had to rely on supplies they received before the storm. Once that gas ran out, the stations closed.

“I wish I could sell you gas,” said Laura Glowatsky, general manager of Great Bridge Exxon on Battlefield Boulevard. “We had power restored at 10 [on Thursday night] but were out of gas by 1:30 [yesterday afternoon].”

Across the street, the BP station was the only one in the area that still had gas. People waited in long lines, but by 4:45 p.m., the manager announced there were fewer than 200 gallons remaining.

“I drove from Chesapeake, and when I got here and saw they had gas, all I could think was ‘Thank God. Thank you, Lord because you are looking out for us,’” said Lynette Clark, 25, who is five1/2 months pregnant.

The line was so long it stretched out onto the street and police officers repeatedly patrolled the area, using a bullhorn to tell motorists to move out of the right lane because they were blocking traffic.

But some motorists were not deterred.

“No one else is open and when I saw this place, I was very excited. Thank God they have gas, and now I just hope I get up to the gas pump in time,” said James Munden, 33, who drove 45 miles from Suffolk to fill up his tank.

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