Friday July 3rd, 2020 9:33PM

Florence could rival North Carolina's 1954 'benchmark storm'

By The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The last time the midsection of the East Coast stared down a hurricane like this, Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were newlyweds.

Hurricane Florence could inflict the hardest hurricane punch North Carolina has seen in more than 60 years, with rain and wind of more than 130 mph (209 kph).

North Carolina has been hit by only one other Category 4 storm since reliable record keeping began in the 1850s. That was Hurricane Hazel in 1954. Hurricane Hugo made landfall in South Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane in 1989.

In comparison, Florida, which is closer to the equator and in line with the part of the Atlantic where hurricanes are born, off the African coast, has had at least five hurricanes in the past century of Category 4 or greater, including Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Hazel's winds were clocked at 150 mph (240 kph) at the North Carolina coast and kept roaring inland. They were only slightly diminished by the time the storm reached Raleigh, 150 miles (240 kilometers) inland. Nineteen people died in North Carolina. The storm destroyed an estimated 15,000 buildings.

"Hazel stands as a benchmark storm in North Carolina's history," said Jay Barnes, author of books on the hurricane histories of both North Carolina and Florida. "We had a tremendous amount of destruction all across the state."

Twelve hours after its landfall, Hazel was in Buffalo, New York, and had ripped through seven states with winds still swirling at 100 mph (160 kph) or more.

Few people have experienced the ferocity of a storm like Hazel, which also was blamed for at least 60 deaths in Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York state.

Jerry Helms, 86, was on his honeymoon on a barrier island off the North Carolina coast when Hazel hit on the evening of Oct. 14, 1954. He and his new bride had been to a roller skating rink and missed the evacuation warnings from police officers who went door to door.

Hazel obliterated all but five of 357 buildings in the beach community now known as Oak Island. The Helmses barely survived.

As the storm crashed ashore, they abandoned their mobile home for a two-story frame house. Before long, it was collapsing under the waves and "the house was falling in, and all the furniture was falling out through the floor," Helms recalled Monday.

He thought the roof of a neighboring cinderblock house might be safer, but soon a big wave went over that house. When the wave went out, the house was gone, Helms said.

"There was another house — a wooden house that was coming down the road more or less — and it had some guy in that thing and he's hollering for help," he said.

Helms pushed a mattress through the top-floor window, and they hung on as it bobbed in the raging water.

What lessons is he applying now that a similarly powerful hurricane is coming?

"I didn't feel like it was going to be bad enough to leave," Helms said. "I don't know. I just felt better about staying here than I did leaving."

He doesn't have a safer destination in mind and, having recently broken ribs in a fall, Helms fears getting stuck as thousands abandon the coast.

Meanwhile, Aida Havel and her husband, John, made preparations Monday to evacuate their home in the Outer Banks village of Salvo, where they've lived for about a year. They are heading about 200 miles (320 kilometers) inland to their former hometown of Raleigh, where Hurricane Fran hit in 1996. Fran took a similar inland path to what forecasters predict for Florence.

"I had a tree that smashed my car down in my driveway," Aida Havel said. "Even though that was 22 years ago, I have never gotten over it."

The throngs of vehicles heading inland demonstrate the big difference between Hazel's impact and the damage Florence could cause, Barnes said.

"Today, we have thousands and thousands of permanent residents on our barrier beaches," he said. "It's a totally different scenario with regard to human impact."

___

Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/emery%20dalesio . Associated Press Writer Jonathan Drew in Raleigh contributed to this story.

___

This story has been corrected to focus the six-decade reference on North Carolina. Hurricane Hugo struck South Carolina in 1989.

___

For the latest on Hurricane Florence, visit www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes .

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Entertainment, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: Florence forces adjustments in Virginia, SC
Several schools in Virginia and South Carolina aren't waiting to adjust their schedules due to Hurricane Florence
2:45PM ( 1 minute ago )
The Latest: Sex abuse: Pope to meet Thursday with US bishops
The Vatican says Pope Francis will meet Thursday with the head of the U.S. bishops conference and other top U.S. church officials over the sex abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Catholic Church
2:17PM ( 28 minutes ago )
The Latest: Called-off games could be tough to reschedule
It could be a tough task to reschedule the UCF-North Carolina and West Virginia-North Carolina State games called off due to Hurricane Florence
2:17PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
International court says it's 'undeterred' by US threats
Afghan rights workers warn that a blistering U.S. attack on the International Criminal Court will embolden those committing violence in Afghanistan
1:49PM ( 57 minutes ago )
AP Interview: Iran nuclear chief hopes deal will survive
AP Interview: Iran's nuclear chief tells The Associated Press that he hopes the atomic deal between Tehran and world powers survives, but warns the program will be in a stronger position than ever if not
1:36PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: NC issues first-of-kind state evacuation order
North Carolina's governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation for the state's barrier islands as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast
1:34PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
AP Poll: Voters open to candidates who aren't very religious
AP-NORC Poll: Few Americans consider it crucial for candidates to be religious or share religious beliefs
11:44AM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Catalans roar for independence at rally
Tens of thousands Catalans have issued a collective roar along a main artery of Barcelona to demand independence for the wealthy northeastern region from Spain
11:36AM ( 3 hours ago )
Active shooter study: Semi-automatic rifles more deadly
New research shows active shooters with semi-automatic rifles wound and kill twice as many people as those using non-automatic weapons
11:13AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Eudora Welty gets first marker on Mississippi writers trail
Mississippi has markers noting a blues trail, a country music trail, a civil rights trail, an Indian mound trail, and now a writer's trail
1:59PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Alfonso Cuaron on building 'Roma' on childhood memories
Alfonso Cuaron's new movie, "Roma," is based on his childhood memories, shot in black and white in the Mexico City neighborhood he grew up in.
1:19PM ( 1 hour ago )
'Together Live' tour to feature women storytellers
A ten-city North America tour will feature stories and music aimed at bringing together women of all ages and backgrounds
12:20PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
AP Online - Georgia News
The Latest: Sex abuse: Pope to meet Thursday with US bishops
The Vatican says Pope Francis will meet Thursday with the head of the U.S. bishops conference and other top U.S. church officials over the sex abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Catholic Church
2:17PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Brazil party replaces Lula da Silva on presidential ballot
Brazil's Workers' Party has bowed to court orders to replace former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as its candidate for the Oct. 7 presidential vote
2:14PM ( 32 minutes ago )
North Carolina's wild horses expected to survive hurricane
As North Carolina braces for Hurricane Florence, some tourists and residents are worried about the famous wild horses that roam the Outer Banks
2:14PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Eudora Welty gets first marker on Mississippi writers trail
Mississippi has markers noting a blues trail, a country music trail, a civil rights trail, an Indian mound trail, and now a writer's trail
1:59PM ( 46 minutes ago )
The Latest: Former White House aide pushes back on book
Former White House staff secretary Rob Porter says a new book from journalist Bob Woodward offers a "selective and often misleading portrait" of President Donald Trump and his administration
1:59PM ( 47 minutes ago )