Tropical Storm Isaias continues to wreak havoc on the Canadian Maritimes with high winds and heavy rain after crashing ashore Monday in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane and moving along the US east coast and into New England Tuesday.
The storm is historically significant for its unusual speed. CNN meteorologist Chad Meyers reported that this fast-moving storm means it will take longer to weaken as it moves across vast distances along the Atlantic coast. According to Meyers, this means tornados that drop quickly and cause great devastation in brief periods of time with little warning, often less than 20 minutes.
More than a dozen tornadoes were spawned across the mid-Atlantic. Two people in North Carolina were killed Tuesday when a tornado caused by the storm struck a mobile home park in the town of Windsor; at least twelve people were hospitalized.
One resident caught in a tornado in North Carolina told CNN reporters about the moment it struck, “We didn’t have a lot of time to react once it finally hit. I mean, it hit all at once,” Desaree Pike said. “For lack of a better word, it was hell. You don’t really think about anything else but just holding the kids and hoping it doesn’t tear the house up.”
The tropical storm caused flooding and power outrages along the coast. From North Carolina and up along the northeastern states, three million people were without power on Tuesday night according to poweroutage.us.
Historic storm surge caused massive flooding in the Cherry Gove neighborhood of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, resulting in street closures and several drivers needing rescue as vehicles became overwhelmed by flood waters.
Wind gusts up to 90 mph were reported across the Carolinas causing massive property damage and dangerous amounts of debris. Trees were blown down and crashed into homes and streets, causing severe property damage in the New England area, and even New York City reported wind bursts of 70 mph.
All along the storm’s path, rainfall has caused flooding on average of six inches across the east coast and as of Tuesday evening the storm was projected to continue its path up into Canada.
Collapsed and flooded homes pose grave danger for millions of residents along the coast. Along with flooding, several housefires were reported in beach communities in North Carolina. On Monday, Oak Island Water Rescue, a volunteer emergency response team, posted on Facebook, “Tonight the Brunswick County beaches suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Isaias. Countywide and on Oak Island, there were numerous calls for water rescues, structural fires, structural collapses, and people trapped in houses that were flooding. Storm surge has caused significant damage as has the wind and tornados. The beach front roads were impassable due to high water on much of the island.”
Pictures of flooded neighborhoods and streets turned into rivers have spread across several social media platforms on Monday and Tuesday as thousands of affected residents are forced to look to community aid and charity to clean up debris and rebuild destroyed homes in an environment made increasingly dangerous by the coronavirus pandemic.
The storm is certain to have an exacerbating effect in areas already ravaged by COVID-19, with thousands forced to evacuate their homes and seek safety with family, friends or in emergency shelters where social distancing measures are nearly impossible.
Massive population centers in the Northeast have seen surges in coronavirus cases in recent weeks and nationwide unemployment benefits have dried up, causing an imminent eviction crisis in of poor and working-class communities. Already there are over 10,000 eviction cases on file in North Carolina courts.
Some 43 percent of the renters in North Carolina are expected to face eviction or otherwise be unable to pay rent by the end of the month. As thousands are now dealing with storm and tornado damage these numbers are in danger of rising drastically.
In North Carolina alone, more than 1.2 million workers have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the outbreaks, workers who are now faced with losing their benefits just as the virus is surging in cases amid back-to-work campaigns pushed by both Democratic and Republican politicians locally and nationally. On Tuesday, over 2,117 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the state along with 26 new deaths.
Residents in the affected communities in North Carolina expressed to reporters their dismay at the fight which will be required to gain access to a limited amount of disaster aid. On Tuesday morning Holden Beach resident Jessi Viox told CNN reporters, “Getting ready for Round 2. The eye has moved around us, and now here comes the back end.”