Remembering Hurricane Fran 20 years later

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The category 3 hurricane pumpled North Carolina, causing flooding and mass power outages (WTVD)

Hurricane Fran slammed into the southern coast of North Carolina on September 5, 1996 with sustained winds of 115 mph and gusts up to 125 mph. It left flooding and widespread power outages in its wake along with a big mess to clean up.

It is a storm many people will never forget, including Raleigh attorney Thomas Manning.

"The wind blew all night, and trees crashed all around our house," he recalled. "That night it happened to be my wife's birthday and we had a nice dinner, and she had just blown the candles out on her birthday cake when the lights went out."

Hurricane Fran was responsible for 1.7 million power outages statewide. Manning's home was one of the last in Wake County to get power restored.

"It was 4 or 5 weeks, so we moved into town for a couple of weeks and stayed in motels, and then we moved back out when we had another generator," Manning remembered.

He wasn't alone. More than $900 million in damage was reported in Wake County. Statewide damage added up to $2.3 billion. Roughly $1.1 billion was needed to clean up public buildings and road infrastructure.

Another major cost was cleaning up trees.

"We lost 10 or 12 oak trees [with a diameters of] probably 6 to 8 feet," Manning said. "Enormous trees, it had been raining for a week before the storm and the wind blew them over and we lost 40 or 50 huge pines that knocked down our fences. Our horses got out. It was a huge cleanup for us."

Satellite image of Hurricane Fran

Statistically speaking, North Carolina has been relatively lucky when it comes to hurricanes. No category three or stronger storm has hit the state since Fran, but forecasters say it's time for another.

Manning hopes our lucky streak will continue.

"I hope we never have another, I hope it all goes down to South Carolina or Virginia or stays on the outer banks," he said.

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