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Fran and Bertha: Recalling the "One-Two" Punch

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This pile of rubble was all that was left of Jesse Satterwhite's cottage deck after Hurricane Fran struck.
SURF CITY — Last year, the peak hurricane months packeda one-two punch that rocked the North Carolina coast, first with Bertha, then again with Fran.

Both were big storms that washed away homes and destroyed lives, butwhat lessons have been learned since then? What's been done to ensurewe're better prepared in the future?

WRAL-TV5'sDavid Crabtreerevisited the coast to find that the Surf City Pier has re-opened,families and children are back at the beach, and even the sea oats lookbetter than they have in years. Everything is far from being back tonormal, though.

Jesse Satterwhite, 75, of Knightdale, has owned this Surf City cottagefor 30 years. Two days after Fran he returned to see what was left of itand found only a pile of rubble that was once his deck. The cottageitself was off its foundation and cracked right down the center seams.Satterwhite also noticed something was missing -- the view from hiswindow.

On the night of the storm a 30 foot wall of water came through thearea, pushing one beachfront home 100 feet into another home knocking itanother 30 feet away. All that's left from the original location is thefoundation under the sand. All that's left of the house that caused allthe damage are pieces of wood now occasionally found buried here.

It took months to settle with his unsurance company but with the helpof his friends Satterwhite is re-building -- one board at a time. Franbrought minor changes to the building codes on Topsail Island. Windowshave to be stronger and the required angles for new roofs have beenchanged to keep the wind from ripping them off. For those who want to movea home away from the eroding coastline, new rules mandate a minimum of 90feet at an average cost of $1,000 per foot.

Satterwhite says he wants to stay right where he is because his placehas been a home away from home too long to give it up.

As for the 1997 hurricane season, September is getting off to ahistorically correct start. It's usually the most active month in thetropics.

According to the National Hurricane Center, there have been 200September hurricanes in the past 100 years.

The United States has managed to dodge the bullet in August of thisyear. It's historically the second most active hurricane month. Luckily,only Danny stirred up trouble, and that was in July, which usually isn'tan extremely active month.There have only been 37 July hurricanes since1886. Records show an average of about one east coast hurricane everyOctober.

Up and down North Carolina's coast, erosion is a major problem, butnowhere is that more evident than on the north end of WrightsvilleBeach.

Last year's storms knocked out more than 50 yards of beach thatseparates Shell Island Resort from the Mason Inlet. Now, there's concernabout saving more than just the resort. The erosion is threatening a roadand about a dozen houses on the west side of the island.

Shell Island and Wrightsville Beach leaders recently organized a taskforceto discuss ways to stop the erosion in its tracks.

Photographer:Joe Frieda