Local News

Serene Hurricane Season May Help Shed Coast's Negative Image

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ATLANTIC BEACH — November ends Thursday and so does this year's hurricane season. For the first time since 1994, the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts got through the year without being hit by a major hurricane.

The passing of the season is cause for celebration along North Carolina's coast. The state dodged every tropical bullet this year, and retailers hope that shakes the area's image as a hurricane alley.

"When there have been as many hurricanes as there have been in the past, it takes several years to overcome that perception of 'Oh, we'll go somewhere else this year,'" says Phyllis Ford with the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce.

Overcoming that perception is key to the area's economic vitality, especially in the real estate market. Home sales have dropped off more than 25 percent this year.

Realtors blame last year's storms for the slow year, but Dennis and Floyd barely grazed the area. Betty Whitford, with the Carteret County Association of Realtors, says many visitors are surprised when they see the area is fine.

"Unfortunately, people perceive us to be devastated," she says. "We're not. We're beautiful."

Retailers are also battling the perception that the area is hurricane-ravaged.

"It's just trying to let people know that we're OK down here," says shopowner Alison Brooks. "We're doing well. Hurricanes don't just pop up out of nowhere. You have plenty of warning."

Locals note that for many years until the early 1990s, hurricanes rarely affected the N.C. coast. Having weathered a quiet hurricane season, they hope out-of-towners will see the North Carolina coast as the perfect vacation spot next summer.