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Memories of Fran Help Triangle Residents Prepare for Bonnie

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RALEIGH — Everyone's talking about Hurricane Bonnie. Will she hit North Carolina or pass on by? We won't know for another day or two, but with Hurricane Fran so fresh in our memories, many of us are paying more attention to the threat of a potentially damaging storm.

Triangle residents now track the storms and watch the warnings even more closely. And when we hear that a hurricane like Bonnie may be headed this way, we know that it's not just residents on the coast who have to worry.

"Once you have that kind of experience you begin to realize this is not just a coastal phenomenon," says NCSU Physical Oceanographer Dr. Ernest Knowles. "This is something maybe we ought to pay attention to."

Hurricane Fran taught us that lesson two years ago and changed the way we think about severe tropical storms. This time around, businesses in the Triangle are already taking the threat of Hurricane Bonnie seriously. They've stocked up on everything we may need in case the storm does hit inland.

Dr. Knowles is one who remembers the surprising damage left by Fran. He knows enough about hurricanes to prepare ahead despite the unpredictable nature of the storm.

"Who knows whether it's going to come up and continue out and curve out away," says Knowles. "So it's not a bother except for surf. But it could come right in and some up over Wilmington and right back into Raleigh again."

And there are others with an eye on Bonnie. Ham radio operator Thomas Babb uses Internet sites like ncstormtrack.com, that show the path of the storm and the predicted damage associated with wind speeds.

"It looks like to me, from playing with the computer today, that it's tracking the same way Fran did two years ago," comments Babb.

"Once it starts hitting in, then we know pretty much if it's going to come in this direction," says Knowles. "The people on the coast don't know very much. But once it makes landfall, then we'll have a pretty good idea."

And while what happens on the shore may be a pretty good predictor of whether we'll see any of the storm, the current path of Hurricane Bonnie is not a good predictor.

Meteorologists say Bonnie is following a path similar to Fran's, but that does not mean it will pack the same kind of punch.