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HURRICANE SLAMS INTO CAROLINAS.

Byline: Jim Morrill and Jack Horan Knight-Ridder Tribune News Wire

Hurricane Fran thrashed eastern North Carolina with a vengeance Thursday night, flooding streets, ripping off roofs and causing at least two deaths.

Packing winds of up to 120 mph, the storm chased fleeing coastal residents farther inland and left power outages across a wide swath of the Carolinas. Fran, heading northwest, was expected to bear down on Raleigh, N.C., by midmorning.

About 400 Charlotte, N.C., homes also had their power knocked out Thursday night.

Gov. Jim Hunt declared an emergency in all 100 North Carolina counties, with flooding possible Friday in many western counties already soaked by rain. For the first time ever, officials also put on alert all 2,000-plus state law enforcement agents, including the Highway Patrol.

The hurricane claimed two lives.

An unidentified Onslow County, N.C., resident was killed, though no details were available late Thursday. And a 66-year-old woman was killed near Myrtle Beach, S.C., when her car skidded through a patch of standing water and hurtled down a muddy embankment.

The storm howled ashore about 8:30 p.m. at Southport, N.C., where it uprooted live oaks and damaged buildings. In North Topsail Beach, winds destroyed the town hall. And in Topsail Beach, where the southern end of the island was under water, Mayor Kip Oppegaard called the damage the worst he had ever seen.

Craig and Chris-Ann Streeter rode out the storm in their Onslow County townhouse about a mile from the ocean. After watching the wind blow off shingles, he saw the chimney flue lying on the ground.

``Our chimney blew off the house - can you believe that?'' he said.

Damage was relatively light in South Carolina. ``I've seen stronger gusts in common summer thunderstorms,'' said Myrtle Beach emergency management coordinator Bill Stephens.

The scene was much different a little north.

The storm had knocked out power throughout the Wilmington, N.C., area, and tree limbs littered streets. ``The streets are impassable,'' said Andre Mallette, the New Hanover County human resources director. ``It's pitch black. There's no power on anywhere.''

Winds toppled part of the steeple of First Baptist Church of Wilmington, a neo-Gothic structure in the heart of the historic district.

Southeast of Wilmington, in Carolina Beach, N.C., a frantic group of people who had stayed in The Breakers condominium called 911, saying the building was collapsing in the storm surge. It turned out that floating cars were slamming into it.

Near Southport, about 30 miles south of Wilmington, sounds of exploding transformers, snapping trees and piercing wind gusts signaled Fran's arrival. Thousands were in emergency shelters.

``It is pounding and pounding and pounding,'' said Mary Wasson, who saw a sycamore tree narrowly miss hitting her Wilmington home. ``The top 35 feet snapped off and did a somersault in the air over part of our house. It did a 180 in the air.''

Ed Gore, mayor pro tem of Sunset Beach in Brunswick County, N.C., said he hadn't seen anything like Fran in his 64 years.

``I grew up here all my life and never have I seen this much water on the ground in any one day. We have roads under water, church parking lots are like lakes. Ditches are all full. I don't know how much rain we got because all of our 5-inch gauges are overflowing.''

Storm winds were felt as far west as Charlotte. Torrential rains put most of North Carolina and parts of South Carolina under flood watches.

The hurricane closed many schools. It forced Amtrak to cancel and curtail service on parts of the East Coast, including trains between Charlotte and Raleigh.

USAir canceled all flights departing Charlotte/Douglas International Airport before 3 p.m. today. Other airlines planned to cancel morning flights, but hoped to be back in the air by midday. Other Carolinas airports also reported curtailed sTervice.

CAPTION(S):

Photo, map

PHOTO (color) People rest Thursday at a hurricane evac uation center.

Associated Press

Map: Hurricane Fran
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 6, 1996
Words:671
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