Wrightsville Beach mayor warns residents to be cautious of Hanna

Posted September 3, 2008 9:25 p.m. EDT
Updated September 3, 2008 11:05 p.m. EDT

— Mayor Stephen Walen is warning Wrightsville Beach residents to be cautious of Tropical Storm Hanna, but not to lose their cool over it.

“It’s Mother Nature, and you just don’t know what they’re going to do. There’s never a certainty until it gets where it’s gonna get,” Walen said.

At 11 p.m. EDT, Hanna was located about 160 miles east-southeast of San Salvador in the Bahamas, where Christopher Columbus landed. The storm was moving north-northwest near 13 mph with maximum sustained winds near 65 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm appeared to be better organized and was expected to continue moving northwest during the next couple days.

Meteorologists expect Tropical Storm Hanna to accelerate and intensify into a Category 1 hurricane as it barrels toward the U.S. – perhaps North Carolina’s coast – possibly making landfall late Friday.

Hanna has already started tearing at North Carolina beaches, eating away sand from areas already ravaged by erosion.

"Within the last two days, even, you can see ... the erosion of about 2 feet of depth, showing the sand that has been lost," Topsail Beach resident Todd Turpin said.

Topsail Island has lost up to 50 feet of beach over the past five years, leaving some areas with a sliver of sand. Pender County has condemned some oceanfront homes where erosion has threatened their structural integrity.

Surf churned up by Hanna crashed ashore Wednesday beneath a row of condemned homes. Local officials plan to demolish the buildings, but the storm will arrive before that occurs, which Turpin said creates a potential hazard.

Pender County officials said they might issue evacuation orders Thursday or Friday if Hanna poses too much of a threat to the beach.

"We will have the roads blocked off and not allow any residents back on the island unless they have a hurricane pass," said Deb Hill, Topsail Beach assistant town manager.

In 1996, Hurricane Fran heavily damaged Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Island. Hurricane Bonnie in 2004 brought high water to Shell Island resorts.