Remembering Hurricane Isabel

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 11:09 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2022 at 2:56 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SHERANDO, Va. (WHSV) - Hurricane Isabel is the most recent hurricane to have widespread devastating effects on the Shenandoah Valley. Nineteen years ago, hurricane Isabel affected the Southeast and the Mid-Atlantic.

Area Rainfall: 4″-20″

Max total rainfall: 20.20 in Upper Sherando

Shenandoah Valley Damages: $29 million

Local Deaths: 5 people

Hurricane development toward the end of hurricane season usually comes from African waves. These storms travel across the Atlantic, giving them ample time to strengthen over the warm ocean waters.

Isabel started as a wave on September 1st, strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane by September 11th, and made landfall along the coast of North Carolina by September 18. After landfall near Ocracoke in the Outer Banks, the storm traveled right through Virginia.


Rain started just after sunrise on the morning of September 18th, even before the storm made official landfall. (Landfall is when the center of the eye reaches land)

In the Shenandoah Valley, the ground was already saturated because of above average rainfall for the summer. With Isabel, widespread rain of three to seven inches fell across the Valley and the Highlands.

However, a band of continuous rain set up around southeast Augusta County. Three hundred and fifty people were evacuated after 6 inches of rain fell around the Sherando area. When the rain stopped, the rain gauge at Upper Sherando was at 20.2″ of rain. With twenty inches of rain falling in Upper Sherando, flash flooding took place along the rivers, including the South River, which led to flash flooding in Waynesboro and surrounding areas.


Here’s a look at some of the reported rainfall totals from across the area.

Hurricane Isabel
Hurricane Isabel(whsv)


This time, it wasn’t just the heavy rain, but winds ranging from thirty to fifty miles an hour also blew across the region.

Trees on saturated ground, combined with the strong winds, came crashing down and created power outages.

Hurricane Isabel
Hurricane Isabel(NWS)

Isabel was a powerful storm that resulted in thirty-two deaths in the state. A man canoeing in flood waters drowned in Harrisonburg, Two others drowned in a horse and buggy after crossing a low water bridge in Rockingham County.

Isabel was not just known for the heavy rain and flash flooding, but also the damaging winds that caused millions of power outages and down trees.

Isabel’s heavy rain created flash flooding that lead to bridges washed away, and several homes damaged or destroyed. hundreds of people had to be evacuated.

Major flooding occurred along the South river in Waynesboro and tributaries, and along the Shenandoah River.

The South river rose rapidly and crested at 13.9 feet which caused major flooding downtown. More than 300 people had to be evacuated.

Even though inland flooding is the biggest threat locally, remnant hurricanes can still bring strong winds. With Isabel, sustained winds ranged from 25–50 mph, and some gusts up to 60 mph. This caused numerous down trees and power lines, causing power outages.

According to the National Weather Service, 13 homes were destroyed and many had more than a foot of mud in their houses.

Track and rainfall
Track and rainfall(whsv)


Copyright 2022 WHSV. All rights reserved.