AP NEWS
Related topics

Bonnie Spares Most Carolina Homes

August 27, 1998

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (AP) _ Dr. William Salling pulled up the last of the nails and pried off the plywood he had put over his living room windows as protection against Hurricane Bonnie.

``We need the sunlight,″ the dentist said.

Bonnie _ a storm the size of Texas _ had spared his waterfront home. It was only grazed by a 100-year-old magnolia that fell next door.

``We’ve been lucky because we’ve had a hat trick of hurricanes″ since 1996, Salling said, referring to Bertha and Fran. ``I was thinking, `Why us?′ Why not us? We’re better at it than anybody else.″

As Thursday dawned, residents of the southeastern North Carolina coast were amazed to find Bonnie had done little more than blow away a couple of roofs, swamp a few boats and knock down a bunch of trees. About 1 million people were without power for a couple of days, but they all survived.

``It was a nasty, long, stinking trip, I’ll tell you,″ Jim Ryan, a vacationing retiree from East Liverpool, Ohio, said, struggling to hold onto his umbrella as the remnants of Bonnie blew through. ``Fran only stayed about five hours, but she did a bigger job overall.″

A neighbor’s tree snapped in two and punched two holes in the roof of Marla Hubbard’s leaf-covered mobile home. The social worker returned just long enough Thursday to empty the cooler and wastebasket she set out to catch water from the two holes in her roof.

``I don’t feel bad,″ said Ms. Hubbard, who gathered a few supplies and made sure her cat had enough food and litter. ``I feel it could have been a lot worse.″

Ralph Freeman, who lives in a fourth-floor condo along the Intracoastal Waterway at Carolina Beach, watched Wednesday as the tide gently lifted a 27-foot boat _ still tied to its dock _ and deposited it alongside his compound’s swimming pool. Afterward, he went out to inspect his oceanfront seafood restaurant.

``The wind blew that sand so hard, it sandblasted all the stain off two sides of it,″ said Freeman, who had just replaced the wood siding two months ago. ``All in all the island came through really good. We’re as lucky as we can be.″

The storm blew out a wall of windows at a Wilmington high school and ripped off part of a Brunswick County hospital. But most other damage was superficial.

``It’s totally unreal, especially as big as this hurricane was and as long as it hung around Brunswick County,″ said Cecil Logan, spokesman for the county’s disaster services. ``I thought after Bertha and Fran our luck had run out, but we dodged it.″

Even the Shell Island Resort hotel, which many thought would fall into the ocean after Fran struck Wrightsville Beach, sustained only minor damage _ a two-story section of stucco tore away. Assistant Town Manager Ed Taylor credited a $1.5 million project that pumped 900,000 cubic yards of sand onto the oceanside beaches this spring.

``This was a savior,″ he said. ``It was an obvious success.″

The biggest chore for most people Thursday was finding someplace to get a hot meal.

There was a 45-minute wait at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in Wilmington.

``We’ve been looking for about an hour for someplace to get something to eat,″ said Don Haines, whose house in the Myrtle Grove area had no power. ``The line for coffee is four times the doughnut line, so we just decided we’ll get doughnuts and do the best we can _ drink warm water, I guess.″