Local News

Lessons From Hurricanes Past Helping Plan For Future

Posted June 6, 2003

— Hazel, Bertha, Fran and Floyd are memorable names in North Carolina. They are hurricanes from the past that have prepared us for the future.

The Atlantic Ocean has produced many storms in the past 3 years; fortunately, none has come ashore in North Carolina. If you live in the Tar Heel state long enough, chances are good you will get to experience a hurricane. It only takes one such experience to have a devastating impact.

"It came in on October the 15th. None of us has seen much of a hurricane before. I just didn't take it seriously. It got real calm and they the eye of the storm hit us. It swung around and came in full blast," said Susie Carson.

The images of the storm continue to haunt Carson, who was a young single mother when Hurricane Hazel came calling in 1954.

"I just had never seen that kind of devastation of any kind. It's just a constant whoosh, whoosh [sound] blowing and blowing and you feel like you'll be blown away. It was frightening," she said.

Hurricane Hazel became the benchmark for other North Carolina storms to live up to.

Jay Barnes is a Hurricane historian. His interest in Hurricanes has not left him stranded on the coast.

"Hurricanes are not just coastal phenomenons," Barnes said. "They have a tremendous impact on the coast, But what we've seen with Hazel, with Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and with hurricanes Fran and Floyd, is that these storms can get you in inland areas. Places like Raleigh and Rocky Mount and Charlotte and can be severely impacted by hurricanes."

Barnes said each storm is unique and brings new challenges.

"We will always have to be concerned about hurricanes in North Carolina," he said.

For Carson, the memories of Hazel are still fresh and the lessons learned shocking. "It took days and days before we got back to having electricity or anything," she said.

"We know that sooner or later we'll get another bad hurricane in North Carolina," Barnes said. "We don't know if it's going to be on the Outer Banks or rolling through Raleigh -- but sooner or later we will get another one."


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