Throwback Thursday: Hurricane Fran 1996

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Hurricane Fran Image One
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While many folks are suffering from the damage brought about by Hurricane Dorian, including my own state, twenty-three years ago, today, another hurricane made landfall between 7:17 & 9:03pm EDT…Hurricane Fran. The eye passed over Bald Head Island and Southport.

From NOAA:

Fran was the second hurricane to slam into the North Carolina coast in the same season. Bertha was a Category 2 hurricane when she hit just two months earlier. There wasn’t much time to recover from the first disaster before the second hit.

Due to a low pressure centered over Tennessee and the western extension of the subtropical ridge over the northwest Atlantic, Fran was steered onto a north-northwesterly track and gained speed. Moving around 17 mph, the center of Fran made landfall over the Cape Fear area on September 5th around 8:30 p.m., just southwest of Wilmington. At landfall, sustained winds were 115 mph […].

Hurricane Fran Image Two
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Fran caused major flooding from North Carolina to Maryland [to] West Virginia. The damage from Fran was so extensive that the name “Fran” was removed from the hurricane name list and replaced by Fay. North Carolina got the worst of the storm […]. The North Topsail Beach police station was washed away by a 12 foot storm surge. The police station was being temporarily housed in a double wide since Bertha wiped out the original building just a few months prior. Kure Beach Pier was destroyed along with the Emerald Isle fishing pier, while Bogue Inlet Pier lost 150 feet. Storm surge in North Topsail Beach created a 100-foot wide inlet. Topsail Island lost 40 feet of beach due to erosion. Swansboro and New Bern experienced 10 feet of storm surge […].

Hurricane force wind gusts were experienced as far inland as Raleigh. High winds damaged historical buildings. Classes at the University of North Carolina were canceled for a day and it was almost a week before the water was drinkable again. Strong winds and a saturated ground led to many trees being uprooted inland. This led to numerous houses being destroyed by trees falling on them. Over a million people were left without power. Almost two weeks after the storm, 150 secondary roads were still closed due to flooding and downed trees.

In the same way that residents of Columbia and Charlotte remember Hurricane Hugo‘s devastating inland winds, residents of Raleigh and most of the North Carolina inland coastal plain think back to Fran when discussing the strong wind a hurricane can bring well away from the coast. Fran was the worst storm to strike southeastern North Carolina since Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

My dad was nine years old when Hazel hit. He remembered being underneath his desk in elementary school. I was living in Durham when Fran hit. I thought the roof of the house was going to come off (I was living in an attic studio apartment on the west side of town, close to Duke Hospital and Duke University). That hurricane came straight up thru the middle of NC. Working in Law Enforcement, I was considered “necessary personnel” and when I got up to head in, Durham looked like a war zone. Interstate 85 was completely shut down and I wound my way thru town, west to east. Oh, the devastation. The Trooper Station I worked in had power but, my apartment went without for a week. I need to dig up the pictures of the damage and post them. They are in a box…somewhere. ~Vic

14 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Hurricane Fran 1996

    Dayphoto said:
    September 6, 2019 at 10:57 AM

    What a scary, but very important job you had. I’m so glad you made it through okay.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      September 6, 2019 at 3:32 PM

      Not so important but, I came under state guidelines. I was a non-sworn admin type but, all of us were considered necessary. The storm had passed when I was getting up (what little sleep I got). Zig-zagging thru town was an adventure. Water, trees, power lines…what a mess.

        Dayphoto said:
        September 6, 2019 at 8:03 PM

        Important for the safety of the town, so therefore, important!!

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          September 6, 2019 at 4:13 PM

          Well, in that regard, I was LE support. The Highway Patrol secretary & I handled all of their reports (l was with the, now, defunct NCDMV Enforcement).

          Thanks. 😊🤗❤

    badfinger20 said:
    September 6, 2019 at 11:38 AM

    I’ve never witnessed a hurricane first hand and I’m thankful. I was in Panama City Beach when Katrina hit New Orleans but we didn’t see anything…I did see how one changed the landscape…a year after Hurricane Opal…the landscape was changed. All of those old pastel houses and businesses were gone replaced by modern buildings.
    There would not be many places to hide…

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      September 6, 2019 at 3:44 PM

      NC is a natural target & I grew up with the Hazel stories. It’s an understood possibility as a backdrop of life here. Generations of coastal people just accept it. The northern imports…well, they freak & run.

      There are old Sea Captain houses in Morehead City & Beaufort that have been there 100+ years. They were built by people who knew about devastating coastal weather. Imagine…houses built by ship builders. There are people on Hatteras Island that don’t leave. They dig in & deal.

      I’m sorry for the Bahamians. Apparently, The Bahamas have never been polished, before. At least, not recorded…

        badfinger20 said:
        September 6, 2019 at 7:56 PM

        My ex brother in law went down Saturday night to go on a cruise. I could not believe it but he said they saw sunny skies… They must have navigated them around it is all I can guess.

        Thats like those earthquake houses built in California…they knew what they were doing and what to guard for when making them.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          September 6, 2019 at 4:08 PM

          Cruise lines wouldn’t be in business if they couldn’t plot a course around storms. Sometimes, they get stuck in ports, waiting for one to pass. If a cruise ship got hit by a storm & 2000+ drown from such an event, OMG, the lawsuits would eviscerate that company. Remember that dumbass Italian Captain that got too close to shore and ran the cruise ship aground? Then, he abandoned his own ship while passengers drowned. He went to prison. I guarantee the company went bankrupt or was absorbed by another cruise line for their ships & territory.

          I’ve never been on a cruise. Ken said “HELL NO”. He called them floating cities. He’s a Navy man so, cruise ships to him are dangerous on so many levels.

            badfinger20 said:
            September 6, 2019 at 5:21 PM

            Yea they would go around it or not go at all. Yep I remember that guy…abandoned ship with the quickness lol.
            I haven’t either… I would rather be on a beach. I know they have everything but you could stay in a resort and get the same.

            I like deep sea fishing but you couldn’t do that.

              The Hinoeuma responded:
              September 6, 2019 at 6:47 PM

              I’ve never been deep sea fishing, either. In fact, I haven’t been to the beach in three years. *sigh* ☹😖

                badfinger20 said:
                September 6, 2019 at 8:17 PM

                Oh I’ve been…but I’m sure they wouldn’t let you catch smelly fish on a cruise…but I’ve went deep sea fishing once and it is worth it! Catching Red Snapper one after the other.

                  The Hinoeuma responded:
                  September 7, 2019 at 1:39 AM

                  I’d love to go. Ken has gone many times, long before I ever met him.

                  You should hear the story of being on board ship in the Navy and trying to catch a shark. Dolphin would ride the waves in the ship’s crest. Sharks followed behind, chasing the chum. He and a few others tried to catch one of the sharks when they got bored one day. Crazy bastards…

    bayphotosbydonna said:
    September 7, 2019 at 9:42 PM

    Hmmmm…I don’t remember Fran, although I know you’ll never forget. I’ve lived most my life in the mid-Atlantic region and the worse we had was Isabel in 2003 when it barreled up the Chesapeake Bay. With extreme power outages, ours was an isolated outage with a 150 ft oak falling down and across our lane and electric lines (thank God it missed our house), we had to wait eight days for electric. Not fun with no electric and two kids, but we made the best of it like everyone else does when they have to.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      September 8, 2019 at 1:24 AM

      That one, I don’t remember (had to look it up). I was living in Texas at that time. The next two that caught my attention were Katrina and Rita. I remember asking my native Texan co-workers if the Austin area was prone to hurricane strikes. I was laughed at. To me, Austin was the same distance from the Gulf as Raleigh is from the Outer Banks. I was assured that Austin was safe.

      There have only been two times, as I recall, that I lost power for an extended length of time. I remember an ice storm in the middle 70s when I was kid with my parents and, the other…Fran.

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