Yes, but exactly when can be hard to say, according to Jay Barnes, author of “North Carolina’s Hurricane History.”
For example, the eye of Hurricane Fran, which made landfall at Cape Fear, followed the Cape Fear River north and almost certainly passed over Wilmington on Sept. 5, 1996, but probably not many folks riding out the storm noticed.
Some hurricanes have eyes, or centers, that are so wide and so well-defined, that eyewitnesses claim to see blue skies or even stars overhead. Fran, however, had a relatively “ragged” eye, Barnes said, and provided little relief from the winds.
Also, what some people think is an “eye,” often isn’t. Many old-timers will swear that the eye of Hurricane Hazel passed over Wilmington in 1954. However, Barnes — who grew up hearing old sailors’ Hazel stories in Southport — says it’s just not so. Hazel made landfall at Little River, S.C., he said, and its documented track took the eye over Brunswick County, not Wilmington and New Hanover County. The city could have indeed experienced a lull in the storm, but according to meteorologists, it wasn’t the eye.
Of other recent storms, Hurricane Floyd — which also made landfall at Cape Fear on Sept. 16, 1999 — had an eye that passed over Wilmington or came close.
Hurricane Diana, in 1984, made landfall near Bald Head Island and its eye passed over Southport.
Bertha’s eye passed between Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Island on July 12, 1996 — the first July hurricane to hit the North Carolina coast since 1908.
Hurricane Bonnie, in August 1998, followed a similar track to Bertha’s, making landfall near Cape Fear but grazing the coast rather than heading inland, Barnes said.
Date posted: August 10, 2011
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