Hurricane Fran, September 1996
(Click to enlarge)
Hurricane Fran slammed into North Carolina's southern coast on September 5th, 1996
with sustained winds of approximately 115 MPH, and gusts as high as 125 MPH. At
some point, 1.7 million customers in North Carolina and 400,000 customers in Virginia
lost electricity. The overall death toll was 37, including 24 in North Carolina.
Flooding was also a severe problem in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and
Maryland. Fran produced rainfall amounts of over 10 inches in parts of eastern North
Carolina and western Virginia.
Damages for homes and businesses in North Carolina were estimated at
approximately $2.3 billion. Damages/costs related to public property (debris
removal, roads and bridges, public buildings, utilities, etc) were estimated at
about $1.1 billion for NC. Agricultural damage (crops, livestock, buildings) in NC
was over $700 million. Wake County (Raleigh and vicinity) alone reported over $900
million in damage to residential and commercial property. Finally, forestry/timber
losses for the state probably exceeded $1 billion.
Hurricane Fran formed from a tropical wave that emerged from the west coast of Africa on 22
August. Satellite intensity estimates suggest that the depression became Tropical
Storm Fran on 27 August while located about 900 n mi east of the Lesser Antilles.
Fran began to track toward the west-northwest in the wake of Hurricane Edouard. Deep
convection became more concentrated and Fran is estimated to have reached hurricane status
on 29 August while centered about 400 n mi east of the Leeward Islands. Fran moved
on a track roughly parallel to the Bahama Islands with the eye remaining a little more
than 100 n mi to the northeast of the islands.
Fran strengthened to a category three hurricane by the time it was northeast of the
central Bahamas on 4 September. The hurricane gradually turned toward the northwest
to north- northwest and increased in forward speed.
The minimum central pressure dropped to 946 mb and maximum sustained surface winds
reached 105 knots, Fran's peak intensity, near 0000 UTC 5 September when the hurricane
was centered about 250 n mi east of the Florida east coast.
Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Fran on 1999/09/05 at 1632Z
(Click to enlarge)
Fran was moving northward near 15 knots when it made landfall on the North Carolina
coast. The center moved over the Cape Fear area around 0030Z 6 September, but the
circulation and radius of maximum winds were large and hurricane force winds likely
extended over much of the North Carolina coastal areas of Brunswick, New Hanover,
Pender, Onslow and Carteret counties. At landfall, the minimum central pressure is
estimated at 954 mb and the maximum sustained surface winds are estimated at 100 knots.
The strongest winds likely occurred in streaks within the deep convective areas
north and northeast of the center.
Fran weakened to a tropical storm while centered over central North Carolina and
subsequently to a tropical depression while moving through Virginia.
Hurricane Fran Track
(Click to enlarge)
Damaging Winds and Heavy Rain
According to Associated Press reports, Hurricane Fran was responsible for 37 deaths. Most
of the deaths were caused by flash flooding in the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia and
Pennsylvania. Twenty-one died in North Carolina alone.
Storm surge on the North Carolina coast destroyed or seriously damaged numerous beachfront
houses. Widespread wind damage to trees and roofs, as well as downed power lines, occurred
as Fran moved inland over North Carolina and Virginia. Extensive flooding was responsible
for additional damage in the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and
Maximum Winds from Hurricane Fran
Total Precipitation from Hurricane Fran