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9/19/2003
SPECIAL REPORT: Altered route keeps this trucker out of the worst of Isabel

Hurricane Isabel has hit the Carolina coastline and is making its way inland, but not all truck traffic has been stopped.

By altering his route and using a little common sense, OOIDA member Henry Albert of Mooresville, NC, has managed to keep on truckin’ and avoid most of the storm’s brunt, even though his regular route goes through it.

Albert, a hurricane veteran, was taking the storm in stride.

“Yeah, the humidity’s awful high,” he joked.

Albert’s regular run takes him from North Carolina to New Jersey, frequently traveling on Interstate 95. That highway is fairly close to the coast along some of its path and lies right in the path of the storm.

However, to avoid trouble with Isabel, the trucker changed his route. Hanging on the west side of the Eastern Seaboard, Albert headed from his home base in Mooresville, NC, up I-77 to I-81. From there, he planned to turn east at Harrisburg, PA, and head to his drop point along the Delaware River.

The route is only 12 miles more than his usual route, so the detour added plenty of extra safety with minimal extra costs.

When he called OOIDA’s offices, he was near Strasberg, VA, on 81. According to a local weather report he checked, the wind was moving at roughly 30 mph even where he was, with gusts up to 43 mph – enough to affect a moving semi.

“I wouldn’t say it’s getting really wild here on 81 yet, but the wind has definitely picked up,” Albert told Land Line. “I was out on level ground. I’m hauling chain link fence, which is a high-drag load, and literally, and I couldn’t get above 60 mph. It [his rig] was doing all it could against the wind head on.

“Now it’s not so bad that way, but I have a different problem; it’s hitting me on the side.”

Albert is expecting some flooding through the region. One of the areas he will pass through received 8 inches of rain in three hours a few days ago, he said. The downpour from Isabel on top of that will doubtless create even more flooding.

“It’s right in the path of all this, so I figure that’s probably not a good way to go.”

Along coastal areas, hit by high tide and storm surges at the same time Thursday, forecasters are expecting much worse. 

Isabel doesn’t hold many surprises so far for Albert, who has been through similar storms before.

“This one’s not going to be as bad as the last one I was in,” he said. “I went back and fourth through that three times.”

That was Hurricane Floyd, which hit the Carolina coast in September of 1999.

“I went through it, passed it, unloaded, reloaded, went back there through it, got to the other side, unloaded, reloaded, caught the thing again, ran through it, parked where I was, and then it passed and I unloaded,” he said. 

Hurricane Isabel hit the coastline at roughly 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, the eye of the storm colliding with the Outer Banks and heavy winds a rain shutting down large portions of the East Coast, including the nation’s capital.

The storm’s highest wind speeds, near the eye, continued to decline, but remained strong enough to cause considerable damage. The Associated Press reported that hurricane-force winds – sustained winds of more than 74 mph – still extended over a circular area more than 200 miles wide, even after the storm went ashore.

Hurricanes tend to lose power after they make landfall; the storms derive much of their power from warm sea water, and begin to falter over colder water or land.

The storm is affecting weather and road conditions as far south as South Carolina and as far north as New York City and Long Island.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mark_reddig@landlinemag.com.

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