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3 Years Ago, We Met Bertha & Fran

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(WRAL-TV5 News)
RALEIGH — Three years ago tonight, Hurricane Bertha was bearing down on the North Carolina coast. Hurricane Fran followed a few weeks later. It was a one-two punch that left North Carolina reeling.

Bertha touched off a hurricane season that was devastating for North Carolina. Nine hurricanes are forecast for this year, three of them are expected to be major storms like Hurricane Fran.

Emergency management officials say the deaths and damage caused by Fran and Bertha should remind all of us how important it is to be prepared for the next one.

Hurricane Bertha swept onshore between Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Island July 12 and claimed two lives.

Five weeks later on September 5, Hurricane Fran roared through Cape Fear. Twenty-four people died.

Fran's wrath was felt inland to the Triangle and beyond.

"We saw during Hurricane Fran how much Crabtree Creek flooded. People are going to get out there. (Unfortunately,) they're tempted to get into high, rushing water," said Tom Ditt of N.C. Emergency Management. "It overwhelms them. So the majority of people who die in hurricanes die in flooding and drown."

It's been three years since Bertha and Fran devastated North Carolina. Emergency management officials want residents to be prepared when Mother Nature lashes out again.

"Know where they're going to go. Know where evacuation routes are. Have an emergency kit in the car, so if they have to evacuate they can pick it up, put it in the car and evacuate to safe areas," Ditt suggests.

"There are a lot of little items you can pick up right now," says Ronald Moore of Home Depot. "Don't even wait for a storm to hit."

You can start by visiting your home improvement store. Now is the time to stock up on flashlights and batteries. You'll need them during a storm. Plan on using chainsaws and generators afterward.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people wait until the last minute to get prepared for storms when they come in," Moore said. "And there's a madhouse trying to get everyone in and get what they need and get out the door."

Recent research shows that six out of 10 people who've died in hurricanes lived in inland counties.

That's important for Triangle residents to remember this hurricane season.