- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2003

CLAREMONT, Va. (AP) — Jennie Simmons and members of her family wandered the Claremont beach looking for furniture from the family vacation home wiped out by Hurricane Isabel.

They found a set of bunk beds about 100 yards away. Back at the home site the only thing that remained was a set of metal steps that led nowhere.

Miss Simmons’ family was not alone. Hurricane Isabel showed its strength along the Isle of Wight County and Surry County shoreline, where residents said about 180 homes in three communities were destroyed.

In Burwell’s Bay, Billy Shortt stood where a corner of his home’s foundation and his bedroom stood before crashing waters carried away that part of the house.

“I’m going to get out what I can get out, then go,” said Mr. Shortt, 52, who has been coming to the Isle of Wight shore village all his life. “Burwell’s Bay is gone.”

The surging James River crashed through Mr. Shortt’s home and about 30 others in Burwell’s Bay. The storm hit the riverbanks so hard in Surry that more than 50 homes in Claremont and 100 mobile homes in Sunken Meadow likely were destroyed.

The three communities have been vacation spots for decades, mostly built before zoning rules. They also were built at water level, open to the hurricane winds that roared across the James and brought oceanlike waves. The vulnerable location left many wondering whether the communities ever will be resurrected.

Many residents in the communities said they have no insurance.

More than half of the homes were rentals, but people lived there year-round or visited in all seasons. Some residents, particularly in Claremont, said they would rebuild if they could. Others said insurance companies and environmental and safety rules would prevent rebuilding.

Surry County Administrator Terry Lewis said the county and other government agencies would have to look “very, very carefully” about rebuilding at Sunken Meadow and Claremont.

However, it was hard Saturday to consider anything beyond the destruction that many people were seeing for the first time. Most people left the area because of evacuation orders and downed trees. A long drive kept many from getting there on Friday.

“There are 22 families who live down here year-round,” said Jan Myers, manager of the Sunny Meadows Beach Center, a mobile home park and public beach at Sunken Meadow. All but one of more than 100 trailers were crushed. “We have nowhere to go.”

Chong “Kim” Glasscock left early Thursday from Burwell’s Bay, where she owned the Bayhouse Restaurant, six rental cottages and a trailer she rented to her cook.

The eight buildings were destroyed. Only a few cinder blocks of the restaurant’s foundation remained.

About 300 yards down the shore, she found family photos intact. A little closer, twisted into the roots of an overturned tree, was a black dress she bought in Hawaii a few years ago.

Miss Glasscock saw the damage for the first time Friday.

She said about 100 customers came by to see how she and the Bayhouse had survived.

But Miss Glasscock could hardly talk to them.

“Yesterday,” she said, “I couldn’t even breathe.”

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