Saturday marked the first day of the annual Atlantic hurricane season. Unless you live near the coast, most people aren’t aware that potential tropical weather may strike even a few days before landfall.
A hurricane’s path may be closer than you think.
Fort Bragg and the surrounding Fayetteville area felt the wrath of a category 1 hurricane, Sept. 6, 1996. According to an Associated Press article, Sept. 11, 1996, a power failure caused by Hurricane Fran, resulted in 6.8 million gallons of sewage to flow into the Cape Fear River.
I remember that night very well. My brother, Christopher, and I were roommates in the Haymount area of Fayetteville. When we heard the reports that Hurricane Fran was possibly going to hit Wilmington that afternoon, we rushed to Sam’s Club, buying water, flashlights and anything else we could think of that would help us last through the storm. Both of us are weather nuts and were excited about the storm.
We found it odd that no one else was picking up supplies. In fact, everyone seemed rather calm.
We purchased our supplies and started to prep the house, taping windows and making sure all our outdoor furniture was stowed away.
As the hurricane came closer to land, we noticed the wind picking up and heard rain drumming loudly on the roof and walls.
The lights began to flicker and finally went out about 9 p.m. Occasional green flashes of light would glow. We listened to weather reports on our portable radio as the wind became louder and louder. I could actually feel the wind pushing the sides of our house. Christopher would go outside and feel the hurricane-force winds gust around him until I told him that trees might fall on him.
During the night, I think the severity of the storm changed our excitement into alarm and fear. Neither of us had ever felt or heard the wind sound so ferocious and alive.
The next morning, we were awestruck by the devastation around our neighborhood. Tree limbs, power lines and pine needles were everywhere. Two trees had fallen on either side of our house, barely missing us. Some of our neighbors were not so lucky.
I had to go to work so we could get other newspapers printed from Wilmington and other communities hit hard by the storm. Downed trees and power lines made it difficult for me to navigate the neighborhood. Everywhere I went, I saw the same thing — trees, power lines and debris all over the roads and lawns.
When I went to Pope Air Force Base the next day, most of the trees had been cleared but a lot of them had come close to hitting the aircraft displays near the Butner Road gate. Some of the trees were pushed in strange angles or leaning against other trees.
Power remained out for a few days, meaning food in our refrigerator and freezer spoiled. Eventually everything went back to normal, but both my brother and I had learned a new, healthy respect for hurricanes.
Recently, we found out another hurricane had touched our lives without us even knowing it.
Hurricane Floyd hit the North Carolina coast, Sept. 7, 1999, almost to the day of Fran’s destruction. The storm produced torrential rainfall, causing devastating flooding in eastern North Carolina.
I also remember that night because my Family was driving back from my uncle’s funeral in New Jersey. My father was determined we had to travel in the storm’s path so he could get back to work on Monday.
Because my father had poor night vision, my mother and I ended up taking turns driving through non-stop downpours down Interstate 95. It was very difficult to see the road or the cars ahead of us. About three hours after we passed the exit to Kenly, N.C., the interstate was closed due to heavy flooding.
We made it home safely, although I swore I would never drive through something like that ever again.
This past Sunday, my brother Christopher texted me, asking for the address where we lived in Rocky Mount, N.C., from 1981 to 1982. He was feeling nostalgic about our time there and wanted to see the house on Google Maps.
The house wasn’t there anymore. We both did some research and found that Hurricane Floyd had flooded many houses in our old neighborhood, including ours. The destruction was so bad, they razed all the houses by Maple Creek’s side.
To see where we once played by the creek and the woods completely changed by a natural disaster made us realize how destructive Mother Nature can be.
Make sure you have an emergency kit ready for use. Here are a couple of websites that have suggestions for what to have in your kit: www.bragg.army.mil/directorates/readybragg/Pages/default.aspx and http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.
When you hear the next hurricane warning issued for North Carolina’s coast, you may still be in the storm’s path. Be ready.