Hanna arrives on Fran anniversary

Posted September 6, 2008

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— Twelve years ago, one of North Carolina's most devastating storms came ashore near Cape Fear. Many North Carolinians have personal memories of Fran, the second most desctructive storm in state history.

Fran earned the moniker as the Paul Bunyan of North Carolina hurricanes, felling thousands of trees with the sharp blade of its wind power.

Half-a-million tourists and residents rushed inland as Fran took aim at the coast and then forced its way toward the Triangle. Landfall came near Bald Head Island, with winds of 115 mph and a storm surge between 8 and 12 feet. Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Island were heavily damaged, but that was just the beginning.

With winds still near hurricane strength, Fran blasted the Triangle, hitting the region harder than any hurricane since Hazel in 1954. It left a landscape littered without trees in virtually every neighborhood and power outages that lasted for more than a week.

Damage from Fran was so widespread that a state of emergency was declared in all of North Carolina's 100 counties – the first time in state history. Damage was pegged at $2.3 billion, and 24 people died.

Fran was outdone three years later by Hurricane Floyd, which brought devastating flood waters in September 1999.

Tropical Storm Dennis did Floyd's dirty work, coming ashore 10 days earlier and saturating the soil and filling the rivers. When Floyd made landfall near Wilmington, its relentless rains had nowhere to go but into the streets, highways and houses. Rain fell for more than 60 hours in some places.

Floyd became North Carolina's biggest killer of the 20th century, claiming 42 lives. Many victims died in their cars, trying to navigate flooded roads, while others perished in their homes, caught off guard by flooding.

Floyd inundated eastern North Carolina, including Rocky Mount, Wilson, Tarboro and Princeville, and put entire communities under water. The storm destroyed more than 8,000 homes and damaged 67,000 more.

Water pollution was rampant  as floodwater's covered 4.2 million acres and caused staggering farm and livestock losses. More than 30,000 hogs drowned in the storm.

Overall damage estimates from the storm were mind boggling. The initial estimate of $1.3 billion quickly mushroomed to $6 billion.


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