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Hurricane Strikes Carolinas; State Declares Emergencies

By Eric Harrison and Mike Clary
Los Angeles Times
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.

Hurricane Fran, blowing with dark fury, roared across Cape Fear late Thursday and sliced into North Carolina like an ax, killing one person and sending at least a half million others scrambling for safety.

Rain blew sideways. Waves taller than houses crashed into shore. Wind hurled rocks through windows and onto rooftops. Both North and South Carolina declared emergencies. Businesses closed, buses stopped running and all Amtrak trains and airline flights were canceled.

The eye of the storm was 25 miles wide. Far inland, power lines tumbled, trees shredded and highways flooded, making travel hazardous. A 66-year-old woman was killed in Conway, when her car skidded through a patch of standing water. She lost control, and the car hurtled down a muddy embankment. The woman died when it hit a tree.

Fran was the second hurricane to hit Cape Fear this year. The first was Bertha, which killed 10 people in the Caribbean and along the East Coast last July. This time officials feared a storm to match Hugo, which killed 35 people in 1989. They told more than 500,000 tourists and residents to flee. Some of those who did not were asked for their next of kin.

Thursday night, the eye of the hurricane passed directly over Southport, N.C., just inland from Cape Fear. Ahead of the eye, winds blew at 115 mph and gusted to 120 mph. "It was blowing hard," said Mayor Bill Crowe. "We were at the mercy of the Lord. Then, all of a sudden, it got really calm. He spared us."

Fran gave Southport a beating, nonetheless. "It sounds like hell hung over out there," said Steve Robbins, a police dispatcher. "The trees and power lines are coming down, and there's flooding in the streets.

"No one can go outside. Most of our residents are still in town, riding it out in their boarded up homes," Robbins said. "These are rednecks down here. They're pretty tough."

In Calabash, N.C., not far from Cape Fear and near the North and South Carolina state line, 72-year-old Thomas Wynn snorted with disgust as most of his neighbors headed for high ground.

"They're chicken," Wynn said. "I'm staying put

"What's the use of leaving?" he asked. "I'd just worry about things back home if I left."

Wynn said he had filled his bathtub "so I can grab a bucket and use that to flush the toilet when the water supply goes."

As he spoke, the lights went out in his small, wood-frame home.

"What the heck," he said. "We've had some hurricanes here before. The wind's blowing pretty good and it's raining hard, but the the house should ride this out."

Although Fran was less powerful than Hugo, which had winds of 135 mph, it was just as large. Fran sent hurricane-force winds up to 140 miles from its eye.

In South Carolina, the advancing storm ripped the steeple off the Sandy Grove Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, but there were no reports of injuries.

Myrtle Beach, about 60 miles from landfall, pulled its police and utility crews off the streets at the height of the storm. Residents were told by the local radio station that there was no point to calling about power outages, because there was no one available to make repairs.

In Georgetown, a community of 12,000 about 35 miles south of Myrtle Beach, a large number of homes and businesses were boarded up. Most residents had left early or were buttoned up safely inside as the winds mounted to hurricane force. By nightfall, streets were deserted.

Precautions appeared to be paying off. Although electrical power was out, many places had generators. Wind knocked down tree limbs, and vines littered yards and parking lots, but barricaded structures appeared to be holding up well.

One store, Georgetown Ice, did a brisk business selling ice, batteries and what owner Ginger Haley billed as "the world's best hot dogs."

Ralph Anthony Brown, 46, said Haley's hot dogs were well worth an arduous trip to the store. "These are so good," he said, "that I would come out in a hurricane for them."

Minutes later, Brown left for home with some of life's other necessities: two loaves of bread and a case of Budweiser.

Copyright 19,95, The Tech. All rights reserved.
This story was published on 9/6/96.
Volume 116, Number 39.
This story appeared on page 2.

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