clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Under a steady rain, Virginia Tech fans defy Isabel

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — With rain and wind from the outskirts of Hurricane Isabel soaking through parkas and bending back umbrellas, there seemed a thousand better places to be than outside with soggy fried chicken and cold barbecue.

Then again, Virginia Tech was playing football.

All 65,115 seats at Lane Stadium were sold out for Thursday night's game against Texas A&M as Hokies fans streamed into Blacksburg, maroon and orange flags waving from their cars in firm defiance of the storm.

Hours before kickoff, a few hundred fans held down tents in the parking lot outside the stadium and huddled underneath, holding back the rain with sub sandwiches and beer. By kickoff, most seats in the stadium were filled.

"I was here in 1995 when it was 20-below and the wind blowing 30 miles an hour," said Bradley McCall, 25, an insurance salesman from Roanoke who has missed only two games in 10 years. "When the Hokies are playing, I'll be here no matter what."

Lee Wagstaff left his dairy farm in Clarksville about 100 miles away on the North Carolina border at about 1 p.m. Thursday, leaving 250 head of cattle and his wife deep in Isabel's path.

"My wife's been calling me on the cell phone all day," Wagstaff, 43, said with an embarrassed laugh. "The power's been off."

Why wasn't Wagstaff at home protecting his farm?

"Hey, it's a Tech ballgame, man!"

Before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff, winds in Blacksburg were blowing at 20 to 30 mph, with gusts expected to reach 50 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Fans filtered into the stadium under orange and maroon ponchos, reluctantly handing their umbrellas over to security staff, who banned them from the stadium because they block the view of the game.

Isabel barreled up the East Coast Thursday night, coming ashore in North Carolina and chugging through Virginia. The Category 2 storm left more than one million electric customers without power in the state.

Even at the periphery of the storm in Blacksburg, the wind howled and sheets of rain soaked the ground.

"We want to face Isabel head on," Stacy Nolen, 23, screamed with the wind blowing against her face.