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Storm chaser recalls Hurricane Isabel’s destruction to Central Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Hurricane Florence approached the East Coast Wednesday, a Richmond storm chaser recalled the destruction a similar storm brought the area nearly 15 years ago.

Bill Hark, a Henrico allergy and asthma specialist by day, has been chasing storms for decades. That love for following some of America's most dangerous storms was put on hold when he got married.

"My girlfriend at the time, who’s now my wife, basically said I had to stop. It was part of the agreement of getting married - no hurricanes," Hark joked.

Hark still chases tornadoes, however he vividly remembers the damage Hurricane Isabel brought to Central Virginia in September 2003. The Fan District resident videotaped his entire journey to the Virginia-North Carolina border and back to Richmond.

"The hurricane was large and there was a big wind field. Even as a I started there were already trees down in Richmond," he remembered.

Hark recalled driving alone down Interstate 95 as the deadly storm pounded the Outer Banks.

"It’s pretty amazing to drive down 95 and it’s empty. There was nobody except for me," he said.

The storm chaser had a near-death encounter on the road as the winds gust more than 30 miles per hour that he captured on video.

"I'm watching these trees just shake back and forth and debris flying through the air and at one point I see this tree fall across the road right in front of me," Hark remembered.

Back in Richmond and Hark found trees on homes and cars in front of his Grove Avenue home. The damage wasn't unique just to his neighborhood, but throughout Richmond.

"There was a carpet of shredded leaves all over the street. A number of the trees were down. Some of them had fallen down on cars and crunched the top of cars," he described.

Fast forward 15 years, and on Tuesday neighbors prepared their homes for what could be another historic storm. Homeowners sealed roof vents and moved patio furniture ahead of Florence.

As of Wednesday evening, the major hurricane's path appeared to move south and headed toward Wilmington, North Carolina - further away from Central Virginia.

However, Hark had this advice for everyone who prepared their homes for a potential dangerous storm.

"Anyone who thinks they got prepared for nothing, they should be happy they're prepared. They’ll have their equipment for the next storm," he stated.