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Memories of Fran Fail to Keep Beachcombers Away

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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — The hopes of beach businesses were pinned on theMemorial Day weekend.Would bad press and very real damage left from Hurricane Fran keep thetourists away? If the kickoff weekend to summer is any indication, theanswer is a resounding no.

Business owners are smiling despite the word from a local newspaperthat fear of Fran kept beaches quiet. They say business was anything butquiet, with many places recording record sales. It's just part of the waythe North Carolina coast is getting back what was lost.

For local Realtors, it was a surprising way to start off the unofficialsummer season at the beach. For others, it was a way to remember how farcoastal areas have come.

Jeanne Nocity with the local chamber of commerce says the weekend provedfolks know Topsail Island is not devastated, and is still around forenjoyment. You will still find a fair share of construction. There aresome empty lots where houses once stood. But for the most part,everything that wasn't washed away by last year's hurricanes is up,running, and very much full.

A little rainfall didn't send tourists packing. They found shelter inarea shops. Janet Kozma's store was busy. She says it seems visitorswere happy with the way the coast has come along.

There's no hiding the fact the coastline still needs work. Topsail Beachstill has no open piers, leaving fishermen to fish in the surf. JohnnyMercer Pier in Wrightsville Beach is open, despite a 200 feet loss. Atleast two piers at Surf City and on Topsail are expected to open by the endof the summer. The others will be revived in the winter.

It's a long rebuilding process, but with traffic, the Memorial Weekendcrowds, and the sun and surf the state is famous for, local businessesstill plan to coast through the summer.

Terri Gruca reporting

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