NC hurricane history 101: Are we overdue for a storm?

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - As coastal communities in Southeastern North Carolina prepare for the effects of Hurricane Earl, long-time residents are remembering the storms that have come before it.

Southeastern North Carolina has not been hit by a major hurricane in more than ten years, which leaves some people wondering whether the area is overdue.

In 1954 Hurricane Hazel defined dangerous hurricanes in coastal Carolina.

"It was bad," said Mary Jane Lane, who was in her early twenties was Hazel devastated the coast.

"You could walk around and pick up windows and doors that had floated out of the houses," said Lane.

Hazel struck as a category four storm and killed 95 people in the United States.

After Hazel, however, the seas were relatively quiet, with no devastation hitting Southeastern North Carolina until the mid-1990s when things got ugly.

During that time, one storm after another hit the area, beginning with Hurricane Bertha in July of 1996.

Bertha caused some damage, but residents would later find out she only set the stage for something much worse: Hurricane Fran.

Fran slammed into the coast during the first week of September, 1996, while some were still recovering from Bertha.

"It was pretty wild," said Freddy Phelps, who rode out the storm in Carolina Beach after getting stranded on the island because of flooding before the storm made landfall. "We watched the pier actually get torn down piece by piece."

Hurricane Fran killed 27 people and did billions of dollars in damage.

Hurricane Bonnie brought damage and flooding in 1998. Then, one year later, Hurricane Floyd struck. 57 people died, while Southeastern North Carolina went underwater.

Fast forward eleven years, and here we are, with no major hurricanes in more than a decade, which causes some residents to wonder if we're overdue.

Not Naomi Peeples, though. She just moved to Carolina Beach two months ago from an inland area of Virginia and has never experienced a hurricane.

She's not alone. Parts of Southeastern NC have doubled their populations since Floyd, meaning thousands of residents are hurricane beginners.

"Just trying to listen to the locals because they know what's going on with it, and we definitely do not," said Peeples, who is working on preparing for the possible effects of Earl.

As for the locals' advice, it's pretty simple in most cases.

"Hope for the best, prepare for the worst," said Phelps.

Those are wise words to live by, as Earl churns closer...with more storms not far behind.

Timeline of major hurricanes:


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