Memories of Fran Fail to Keep Beachcombers Away
Posted May 27, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — The hopes of beach businesses were pinned on the Memorial Day weekend. Would bad press and very real damage left from Hurricane Fran keep the tourists away? If the kickoff weekend to summer is any indication, the answer is a resounding no.
Business owners are smiling despite the word from a local newspaper that fear of Fran kept beaches quiet. They say business was anything but quiet, with many places recording record sales. It's just part of the way the North Carolina coast is getting back what was lost.
For local Realtors, it was a surprising way to start off the unofficial summer season at the beach. For others, it was a way to remember how far coastal areas have come.
Jeanne Nocity with the local chamber of commerce says the weekend proved folks know Topsail Island is not devastated, and is still around for enjoyment. You will still find a fair share of construction. There are some 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 in area shops. Janet Kozma's store was busy. She says it seems visitors were happy with the way the coast has come along.
There's no hiding the fact the coastline still needs work. Topsail Beach still has no open piers, leaving fishermen to fish in the surf. Johnny Mercer Pier in Wrightsville Beach is open, despite a 200 feet loss. At least two piers at Surf City and on Topsail are expected to open by the end of the summer. The others will be revived in the winter.
It's a long rebuilding process, but with traffic, the Memorial Weekend crowds, and the sun and surf the state is famous for, local businesses still plan to coast through the summer.
Terri Gruca reporting