Local News

A Year Later, Coastal Residents Plan to Steer Clear of Next Fran

Posted September 3, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— So where were you during Fran? It's hardnotto remember waking up the next morning to the destruction. The infamous hurricane hit North Carolina a year ago September 6th. The question now; what did we learn?

One of the toughest jobs for the police and emergency workers is convincing people to leave when an evacuation order is given. But now, as the memories of Fran still linger, even the most stubborn beachcombers have learned their lesson. When the warning flags are up, get out!

The picture of Topsail Island at ground zero the morning after Fran's Fury isn't a pretty one.

Sgt. Ron Shanahan was one of the first onto the island after the storm. He says it looked like a bomb had exploded. There were actually houses sitting on the roadways, but no windows were broken. It was as if the ocean picked up the houses and dropped them in the roadways.

Shanahan works for the Surf City Police Department. It was his job to stay. Even Shanahan has second thoughts about his decision.

Andy Redmond was just across the Intercoastal Waterway. He wasn't alone. In fact, he had a full house that included his wife, mother-in-law, two next door neighbors, another friend, two dogs, a parakeet and a cat.

Redmond told WRAL'sDavid Crabtreehe stayed because he didn't think Fran would be so fierce. Shanahan knew better. He was stationed at the foot of the Surf City Bridge when Fran barged ashore.

"The bridge just lit up arcing," Shanahan recalls. "The power poles were arcing on the bridge. It just lit up like a blue ball of flame and we started running and jumped into the vehicles and headed down Highway 50 West."

That was just before his telephone went dead. Andy Redmond called a neighbor who had also stayed behind.

Redmond remembers hanging up the phone, looking out in his neighbor's direction, then hearing a big crack. Just then, a 50 foot tall pine tree crashed through the side of his house.

And when Redmond saw the damage the next morning, he knew he was lucky to be alive. He also knew one storm like this was enough.

Ron Shanahan now keeps a guardian angel pin on his shoulder, just in case of another hurricane. But if he has his way, like Andy Redmond, last year was enough to last a lifetime.