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North Carolina Bases Assess Fran's Damage

By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 1996 – Military bases in North Carolina continue to assess damage caused by Hurricane Fran, which hit land late Sept. 5 near Wilmington, N.C. Heavy rains and winds up to 115 miles an hour knocked out power, tumbled trees and caused property damage.

Downgraded to a tropical storm soon after hitting land, Fran moved its way from Wilmington past Fayetteville, Goldsboro and the Raleigh-Durham area and into southern Virginia in the early hours of Sept. 6.

Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base located north of Wilmington, was the heaviest hit DoD installation. The base closed late Thursday prior to the storm and remained closed until base officials completed damage assessments.

Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Sylvia Gethicker said Fran caused nearly $21 million in damage -- mostly caused by winds and falling trees. "There were nearly 4,000 homes that received some damage, with about 400 having major problems," said Gethicker. There were also three hangars damaged at nearby New River Marine Corps Air Station.

In addition, the base took major hits at Onslow Beach, where recreational housing, sports and recreation pavilions and the area's sewer system received heavy damage. Gethicker said the storm also caused heavy sand displacement on the beach.

Both Lejeune and New River suspended normal operation early Sept. 5 to prepare for the storm. Lejeune officials ordered evacuation of a trailer park, providing storm shelters at schools and gymnasiums.

The storm spared Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, 40 miles north of Lejeune. On Wednesday, the Marines evacuated nearly 50 planes to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Spokesman Sgt. Joseph Muniz of Cherry Point said the base came out of Fran with only minor damage. "We got less damage last night than what we suffered when [July's Hurricane] Bertha came through," he said. "Like Camp Lejeune, we had power outages and a couple of downed trees, but no real damage to housing or other facilities."

As the storm moved inland, Fran packed enough force to cause serious power outages at Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base near Fayetteville. It also caused nearly $4.5 million in damages at Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base near Goldsboro.

At Bragg, Army Capt. William Thurmond said engineers were restoring base power as quickly as possible, with 30 percent of it returned by 8:30 a.m., Sept. 6. "From what we've heard, the storm basically skirted around us," said Thurmond, a base spokesman. "Still, it's kind of early right now to figure the kind of damage we have. We did get a few downed trees, but most of the problems seem to center around power outages."

The same problems held true for adjacent Pope and at Seymour-Johnson. "We opened the airfield [at Pope] this morning, but there are still some power outages around the base," said Master Sgt. Ed Drohan following the storm. "There are trees down, but there's not much other damage that I've seen."

Pope officials said the base suffered about $300,000 in damages, mostly from fallen trees and downed power lines. Air Force reports said Fran damaged nearly 50 homes, an aircraft hangar and other administration buildings at Seymour-Johnson.

Like the Marines at Cherry Point, base officials at Pope and Seymour-Johnson sent their aircraft to safer locations -- a move also done at other hurricane-threatened bases in South Carolina. At Pope, Drohan said the base shipped 12 C-130 cargo planes to Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., and 27 A-10 Thunderbolts to Grissom Air Force Base, Ind.

At Seymour-Johnson, Air Force 2nd Lt. Jason Decker said the base pilots flew 75 F-15Es to Wright-Patterson. There, they joined the Cherry Point pilots and flyers from both Charleston and Shaw Air Force Bases in South Carolina.

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