North Carolina's Hurricane History

North Carolina's Hurricane History

by Jay Barnes

Paperback(Third Edition)

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North Carolina's Hurricane History by Jay Barnes

Now in its third edition, North Carolina's Hurricane History is a popular illustrated history of the more than fifty great storms that have battered the Tar Heel state from the days of the first European explorers through 1999's devastating hurricane Floyd, which caused $6 billion in damages. Jay Barnes examined newspaper reports, National Weather Service records, and eyewitness descriptions to compile this extraordinary chronicle, which also features nearly 300 photographs, maps, and illustrations.

"Fascinating. . . . With compelling words and images, Barnes chronicles the destruction seen and the lessons learned from the storms.—Raleigh News and Observer

"Packed with information. . . . An intense and emotional narrative.—Coastwatch

"A very readable account of a subject whose dramatic history continues to unfold.—North Carolina Historical Review

"This is arguably the best book ever produced about hurricanes—what they are, what they do, and how to avoid the brunt of them.—Southern Book Trade

"A solid reference book and a well-illustrated treasure trove for browsers.—Wilmington Star-News

Jay Barnes, author of Florida's Hurricane History, is director of the North Carolina Aquarium in Atlantic Beach. He lives in Pine Knoll Shores.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807849699
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 06/30/2001
Edition description: Third Edition
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Jay Barnes is director of the North Carolina Aquarium in Atlantic Beach. He lives in Pine Knoll Shores.

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 8

There were thirteen people on the roof, that cold stormy night. It was dark, and every sound you would hear would scare you. My dad, my uncle, and my grandpa had to wade through the water to get to the boat. My dad got gook and gunk all over him when he got back. The water had made a hole in the ground, my uncle fell in it. It scared all of us. We thought he was a goner. —Abby McDonald, from Spooky Waters, a 1999 essay for her seventh-grade class at Jones Middle School in Trenton

In the days following the dissipation of Tropical Storm Dennis, the skies over eastern North Carolina returned to their normal pattern for late summer Ä hot, humid, and peppered with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Rivers, streams, and ditches across the eastern counties flowed heavily with water from Dennis's rains. Saturated soils took in what they could, but gave up excess to flow downstream. More showers fell through early September, with some counties receiving as much as ten additional inches over the course of one week. These rains refilled creeks and swales, and set the stage for the arrival of a more ominous rainmaker Ä and monstrous flood Ä that would later become recognized as the greatest disaster in North Carolina history.

Hurricane Floyd emerged from the central Atlantic at the peak of the busy 1999 season and developed into the year's most awesome hurricane spectacle. It was indeed a very busy year, amidst an extremely active period of tropical activity. The 1999 season produced twelve named storms and eight hurricanes, five of which were major hurricanes. In fact, the five major storms that year Ä Bret, Cindy, Floyd, Gert, and Lenny Ä all reached category-four strength Ä a feat never before observed since reliable record-keeping began in 1886. And, the busy 1999 season capped off a dizzying five-year stretch that produced more Atlantic hurricanes than any similar period in recorded history. From 1995 through 1999, forecasters at the Hurricane Center worked around the clock to keep up with sixty-five named storms, forty-one hurricanes, and twenty major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph. A number of these storms eventually affected North Carolina, including Hurricane Fran, which established itself as the new standard for Tar Heel hurricanes when it rolled across the state in 1996. But records were made to be broken, and it didn't take long Ä just three years Ä for Hurricane Floyd to replace Fran as the state's foremost weather event.

Floyd's course to America can be traced back to a tropical wave that emerged from western Africa on September 2. A depression on the seventh and a named tropical storm by the eighth, Floyd steadily grew in size and strength until it became a large hurricane at 8:00 A.M. on September 10. Its course toward the west was well above the vulnerable islands of the eastern Caribbean and far enough north to also avoid Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. While gathering steam on its approach to the eastern Bahamas, Floyd amassed a considerable volume of tropical moisture and grew to become a large, dynamic hurricane. Little or no wind shear and a ridge of high pressure aloft provided the setting for the storm's intensification. Satellite photos told the story as this monster reached it meteorological peak on September 13. With maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and a barometric low of 27.20 inches, Floyd was a borderline category five when it moved to within just 300 miles of the central Bahamas.

All eyes in the eastern U.S. were fixed on this large and dangerous cyclone, whose own eye was as pronounced as that of any classic hurricane. The storm's size was immediately impressive too, as televised reports in Florida compared satellite images of Floyd to pictures of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Though the two storms were of similar intensity at nearly the same position in the Atlantic, Floyd's diameter was about three times that of Andrew, covering an impressive swath of the western Atlantic. Hurricane-force winds extended more than 125 miles out from the eye, and the overall storm was more than 400 miles across. Its formidable size and strength commanded the full attention of everyone with a television or radio from the eastern Bahamas to Florida and the southeastern U.S. coast.

Bahamians were the first to be blasted by the storm. On the night of September 13, Floyd changed heading and turned toward the west-northwest, passing only about thirty miles north of San Salvador and Cats Island. Fortunately, some weakening occurred during that evening, for on the morning of the fourteenth the storm's eyewall passed directly over central and northern Eleuthera. After a continued turn toward the northwest and more intensity fluctuations later that afternoon, Floyd struck Abaco Island with at least category-three wind speeds. Few news reports filtered out of the islands during the storm, but it was later learned that many beachfront properties were devastated. At least one Bahamian was killed, and damages were widespread throughout the affected islands.

All through this period, emergency managers and residents on Florida's east coast were thinking the worst and scrambling to execute their plans. A hurricane watch was issued for portions of the Florida coast on the morning of the thirteenth, then upgraded to a warning and shifted northward later that day. This storm appeared to be lunging toward the Cape Canaveral area, and most everyone on the Florida east coast packed their cars and fled. Almost seventy shelters opened along the coastal counties, and another seventy were put on stand-by. From Miami-Dade to Jacksonville, a mass exodus was underway with 1.3 million people told to flee. Highways jammed with cars, NASA's Kennedy Space Center was shut down, and for the first time in its twenty-five year history, Walt Disney World in Orlando was closed.

The hurricane continued to spin toward the northwest, but as the hours rolled by it became apparent that Florida would be spared a direct hit. Hurricane warnings were extended northward as the storm's center tracked parallel to the coast. Though Florida's coastal counties were spared the brunt of the worst winds, high surf crumbled piers and delivered significant erosion along the beaches. The highest reported sustained winds were 55 mph, with some gusts reaching 75 mph. As the eye passed 110 miles east of Cape Canaveral early on September 15, a data buoy rode mountainous seas 120 miles offshore, measuring 55-foot waves every 17 seconds. Floyd was still large and dangerous, and it was now edging up the coast toward the Carolinas.

Table of Contents

1Birth of a Hurricane5
2Hurricane Effects9
Storm Surge14
Storm Intensity20
Other Factors23
3Watching the Storms27
What's in a Name?31
4Early North Carolina Hurricanes, 1524-186133
5Tar Heel Tragedies, 1875-190039
September 17, 187640
August 18, 187942
September 9, 188146
September 11, 188347
August 25, 188547
August 27-29, 189348
October 13, 189348
August 16-18, 189949
October 30-31, 189957
6Hurricanes of the New Century, 1900-195063
November 13, 190464
September 17, 190664
September 3, 191364
July 14-16, 191666
September 18-19, 192866
October 1-2, 192966
August 22-23, 193367
September 15-16, 193368
September 18, 193673
August 1, 194475
September 14, 194476
7Hurricane Alley, 1950-196079
Barbara (August 13, 1953)80
Carol (August 30, 1954)80
Edna (September 10, 1954)81
Hazel (October 15, 1954)82
Connie (August 12, 1955)108
Diane (August 17, 1955)110
Ione (September 19, 1955)114
Helene (September 27, 1958)119
Donna (September 11, 1960)120
8The Modern Era, 1960-1999133
Ginger (September 30-October 1, 1971)134
Agnes (June 20-21, 1972)136
David (September 5, 1979)136
Diana (September 9-14, 1984)137
Gloria (September 26-27, 1985)143
Charley (August 17-18, 1986)147
Hugo (September 21-22, 1989)149
Emily (August 31, 1993)157
Bertha (July 12, 1996)162
Fran (September 5-6, 1996)172
Bonnie (August 26-28, 1998)204
Dennis (August 30-September 5, 1999)214
Floyd (September 16, 1999)220
10Creatures in the Storm269
11The Next Great Storm277
12Hurricane Survival291

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