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Isabel races toward Canada

Millions lose power before storm ebbs

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Levi Sabir talks on a cell phone to a Red Cross official as he tries to recover his belongings from his apartment in Norfolk, Va.

Levi Sabir talks on a cell phone to a Red Cross official as he tries to recover his belongings from his apartment in Norfolk, Va.

Steve Helber, Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Isabel raced from Virginia to the Canadian border Friday, delivering far less rain than expected but leaving millions without power, smashing homes and causing tidal surges that trapped even some city dwellers in their homes.

At least 17 deaths and potentially billions of dollars in damage were blamed on Isabel, which proved troublesome despite taking just a day to fizzle from a 100 mph hurricane into a 30 mph tropical depression.

"You get to a point where it's out of your control," said Trish Kaidanow, who sloshed out of her Broadway Deli onto Baltimore streets flooded with up to 7 feet of water from the storm-swollen Chesapeake Bay.

Almost 200 people, and even a dog or two, had to be rescued by boats, school buses and dump trucks when flood waters spilled over the seawall onto the storefronts of the city's famed Inner Harbor and up to the windowsills of rowhouses and even some suburban homes.

An elderly couple in Bowleys Quarters was rescued from the attic of their house after the home filled with water, county officials said.

She doesn't know how she did it, but 29-year-old Evelyn Augosto walked three flooded blocks with her three young children after neighbors urged her to get out. She put one child on her shoulders and a neighbor carried another while her 10-year-old son walked in water up to his chest. None of them can swim.

"I was scared, but I had to get myself together to not get my kids scared," she said, adding that her children kept saying, "Mommy, mommy, we're going to drown."

Mayor Martin O'Malley, whose city also is dealing with 63,000 people without power, said: "We never thought we'd have enough sandbags to hold back the Chesapeake Bay, and that's what we're dealing with now."

President Bush has declared federal disaster areas in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Delaware officials say they probably would make a disaster request next week.

In all, about 6 million people from North Carolina to New York lost power from Isabel — 1.6 million of them in southeastern and central Virginia, where uprooted trees and downed power lines closed hundreds of highways and secondary roads. Debris was scattered everywhere. Long lines spilled around gasoline stations that managed to stay open.

About 16,000 Virginians were in shelters; 8,000 in North Carolina.

Virginia also had nine deaths — more than any other state. Six motorists died there, as did two people hit by trees and a man who died when his canoe capsized.

"We've just gone through the worst storm in the commonwealth probably in at least a generation," said Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, who advised that it could be several days before power is restored because of the extensive damage to utility lines.

Water service was lost or diminished in many areas because pumping stations lost power; residents were advised to boil water before drinking it.

By midday Friday, Isabel had moved into Canada with a 30 mph whimper.

Along North Carolina's Outer Banks, where Isabel first made land Thursday, Friday's brilliant sunshine brought the first real glimpse of the destruction. In the town of Kitty Hawk alone, at least three fishing piers crumbled into the surf and about 25 oceanfront homes were destroyed or ripped from their foundations.

On the only highway through the 120-mile barrier islands, long stretches were simply erased, or left pocked with asphalt craters. Near the famed Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Isabel's storm surge tore a new inlet that stranded 300 residents and floated at least one house into the Pamlico Sound. Authorities were still working to account for all of the 4,000 coastal residents who refused to evacuate.

Much of the destruction on the Outer Banks came late Thursday night, hours after the strongest winds hit, when the tidal cycle combined to produce raging waves.

"We kept hearing this real whirring noise," said Sandra Simmons of Avon. "I think it was a tornado that had done it. Our house is on stilts and it was swaying. We had waves in the toilet.'

Farther inland, residents worked in the sunshine to repair damage from waist-deep floodwaters that rushed in and quickly receded.

"It kind of looks like they misplaced the bomb for Saddam and dropped it here," said 72-year Brooks Stalnaker, whose home was one of 30 destroyed in the inland community of Harlowe, N.C. "We just got totaled."

Because Isabel sped out of the country at more than a 20 mph clip, it spared many areas the worst. West Virginia got up to 5 1/2 inches of rain — but far less than the original forecast of a foot. Pennsylvania got only 1 to 3 inches — not the 6 to 9 inches once feared.

But Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown warned that Isabel's flooding threat may be a delayed reaction.

"Because Isabel moved through so quickly, we're going to see some blue skies and people will think it's all over with. But indeed we still have a very good chance of some flash flooding. We will still have some rivers that continue to creep up on their banks and overspill," Brown said.

Even the blue skies that accompanied Friday's cleanup brought little relief to Bob Dorrman, who stripped the torn vinyl off his home and tried to restart two flooded cars in Harlowe.

"Look at it, it's like God apologizing," he said, squinting in the sunshine. "Well, too late, dude."