At least 15 people dead.Entire hotels and homes pulled into the ocean. And as of 10:30 EST, 4.3 million people without power along the Atlantic Seaboard.

No doubt, Hurricane Isabel is the first serious tropical strike the East Coast has felt since Floyd in ’99. And while not quite the catastrophe of '92’s Hurricane Andrew in terms of casualties and property damage, it’s hit the Atlantic contest season harder than ever.

“We're pulling the plug on Easterns [2003 ESA Eastern Championships] for next week,” says ESA Executive Director and Fosters Outer Banks Pro director, Kathy Phillips. “And it’s not looking good for Kitty Hawk [site of the Outer Banks Pro].”

Besides losing chunks of the Kitty Hawk pier, the same contest site that produced such epic conditions last year, parts of Kitty Hawk remained flooded as of this morning and every other pier in town except {{{Avalon}}} — Jeanette’s Pier, Outer Banks Pier, and Nags Head Pier — has sustained damage. As a result, Phillips says it will be at least 24 to 48 hours before she can determine whether they can find a different location in town — or whether the Outer Banks will have the infrastructure in place anywhere to host the contest. And with the event set to run October 2-5, Phillips says the Outer Banks Pro’s fate is “tenuous at best.”

But at least there’s a chance, which is something Buxton never had. Hatteras Island took the brunt of Isabel’s wrath. Not only is much of the area still without power or water, the storm cleared a path through Hatteras Village, washing entire homes and hotels into the ocean. With the ESA Easterns scheduled to run September 21 -28, Phillips says they will be forced to postpone the event to a later date in October and, in light of the damage, determine a new location.

“We’ve had to leave and come back before, but it’s never been this bad,” she concedes. “But that’s why we schedule the contests for this time of year, in hopes of some tropical swell.”

And with good reason. As of 1 pm EST, the Rip Curl Dan Heritage Pro, another stop on the Fosters tour, will begin in Sea Isle City, New Jersey with plenty of surf on hand. And Long Island’s Unsound Pro is due to kick off the following Monday with similar hopes.

So while New York and New Jersey run heats, Phillips will run mad trying to salvage one three-star WQS event, while simultaneously rescheduling the longest running amateur contest in the country. The irony of surfers’ most worshipped weather phenomenon devastating what many consider the heart and soul of East Coast surfing — crippling two major contests in the process — is not lost on Phillips, but she remains confident in future Fall events.

“We’ll just try again for Hatteras in September next year and hope things turn out better,” says Phillips. “That’s just the risk you take living on the East Coast.” Matt Walker

Stay tuned to and for future updates on the Easterns and the Fosters Outer Banks Pro.