Event Summary
     National Weather Service, Raleigh NC

Hurricane Fran, September 1996

Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Floyd on 1996/09/05 at 1632Z - Click to enlarge
(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.

KRAX radar image loop - click to enlarge

Tropical Summary

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
Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Fran on 1999/09/05 at 1632Z - Click to enlarge
(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
Hurricane Fran Track - Click to enlarge
(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 Pennsylvania.

Maximum Winds from Hurricane Fran
Maximum Winds from Hurricane Fran

Total Precipitation from Hurricane Fran
Total Precipitation from Hurricane Fran