Carolina Beaches Heavily Damaged
Posted September 9, 1996
NORTH TOPSAIL ISLAND — There is now a no-fly zone in place to keep aerial sightseers away from Topsail Island, but those who saw the damage before the ban went up saw an area hard-hit by the relentless Hurricane Fran.
One beach resident was quoted as saying, "If you had a house on North Topsail, chances are you don't have it any more".
Some pricey beach-front homes were virtually reduced to splinters. Others are no longer on the beach at all. Fran plucked one house off its pilings and dumped it, right-side-up, in the water.
Amazing as it seems, many people ignored pre-storm evacuations and lived through Fran on the fragile barrier island.
Nationally known hurricane expert Dr. Bob Sheets says Fran won't go down in history as one of the top five hurricanes. It will probably be in the top 15, though.
Sheets, who recently retired as director of the National Hurricane Center after a 34-year career there, toured the coast by air.
Visible reminders of Fran's power line the coast. Huge chunks of beachfront were chewed up and washed away. Cars were buried in ways no one could imagine before the storm hit. In Wrightsville Beach, boats were tossed like toys into parking lots and streets.
Piers that were damaged by Bertha just a couple of months back were destroyed by Fran. Authorities are still just beginning the monumental task of cleaning up, yet the beach will never look the same.
Anyone who needed to hangar an airplane after Fran's visit had to venture elsewhere. Wallace Airport has experienced high water before, but never like this.
Fran's wrath covers eastern North Carolina and homeowners are just beginning to trickle back in to survey the damage.
This clean-up will take a very long time.