Coastal, NC Hurricane HELENE Pounds Coast, Sept 1958
HELENE POUNDING STATE COASTAL AREAS WITH 100-MILE WINDS, MOUNTING DAMAGE.
COURSE KEEPS CENTER IN EAST.
Wilmington (AP) -- Hurricane Helene howled ashore in southeastern North Carolina late this morning with winds above 100 miles an hour.
First reports told of mounting damage but no deaths.
City docks at Southport, port town 30 miles south of Wilmington, washed away, the Weather Bureau said.
The Highway patrol said a few houses at Kure Beach, east of Wilmington, had collapsed under the wind force.
Streets at Wrightsville and Carolina, both widely known summer play spots near here, ran deep with water as torrential rains pounded the coastline.
Hardest reported winds were 120 miles an hour which were clocked at Frying Pan Shoals lightship, off Cape Fear.
The Weather Bureau's 1 p. m. EST advisory located Helene about 40 miles south-southeast of Wilmington, moving northeastward about 10 miles an hour.
The advisory added: "Unusually high storm tides, high waves and heavy seas will flood coastal lands from Myrtle Beach, S. C., to Hatteras, N. C., to heights of seven to ten feet above normal and probably higher in some places."
"It is imperative that island beaches and coastal lowlands be evacuated from Cape Fear to Cape Hatteras. Tides north of Hatteras to Norfolk, Va., are expected to rise three to five feet above normal by tonight."
"The expected course and speed of Hurricane Helene will move the center along the southeast of North Carolina, passing near Cape Hatteras at midnight. The highest winds reported so far were 120 miles per hour at Frying Pan Shoals lightship off Wilmington."
This "dangerous" hurricane, her central winds spinning 125 miles an hour, was located at 9 a. m. (EST) 40 miles south of Cape Fear, a point of land jutting into the seething Atlantic 30 miles south of Wilmington. The storm's forward speed was 10 miles an hour.
Helene, making the classic turn of Atlantic hurricanes to the north, altered course in the night, apparently sparing South Carolina coastal lands the brunt of her full blow.
Yesterday and last night she had followed a northwest course, but today she swung to the north.
"This would indicate that the center would move very close to Cape Fear late this forenoon attended by winds of 90 to 125 miles per hour in this area and north-eastward to Cape Hatteras," said the Weather Bureau's 9 o'clock advisory.
After the 9 a. m., advisory, North Carolina's Gov. LUTHER HODGES left his Raleigh office and flew to Wilmington, the Cape Fear River port city of 50,000 about 25 miles upstream from the ocean.
Hurricane force winds already had struck the Frying Pan Shoals light ship, which guards the river entrance.
Lesser winds struck beaches east of Wilmington, knocking roofs from lightly built houses. Power lines lay in yards and streets.
Stinging rains poured down, flooding streets and low areas.
Other beaches of the area, particularly Wrightsville and Carolina, were evacuated last night and early today.
Winds of near hurricane force battered beaches near the coastal village of Shallotte, N. C., and blew waves across the beaches. Several persons drowned in this area in a 1954 hurricane.
Whitesville, N. C., a town 36 miles inland, lost its power when 60 mile winds blew down wires.
Myrtle Beach, S. C., a summer playground with a year-round population of 15,000, took on a cheery note as the storm center by-passed it.
"It's looking good here," said Myrtle Beach Mayor W. E. CAMERON after a tour along the waterfront. He said he saw only inconsequential damage. Two stores suffered broken display windows. The Civil Aeronautics Administration said Myrtle Beach's hardest winds were gusts of 63 miles an hour.
Hurricane warnings, black and red banners, spanked in the winds northward to North Carolina's treacherous Cape Hatteras coastline and southward to Charleston. Beaches along the 300-mile coast from Charleston to Cape Hatteras were largely deserted.
One death was attributed to the storm, a highway fatality on a rain slicked highway as hurricane fringe rains deluged the coastal areas.
Old hands breathed easier on learning that the highest winds would not hit shore -- as feared earlier -- at high tide.
But it was scant consolation. Water poured across Seagull Street at Wrightsville Beach, N. C. two hours before high tide.
Hurricane emergency flags were dropped at Charleston, S. C., once directly in the path of the storm and it seemed certain that that city of 200,000 and the threatened area south of there would be spared any serious damage.
The Weather Bureau said winds near the center of the storm will decrease rapidly after the storm moves inland, but the size of the storm, some 300 miles in diameter, will remain the same and gales can be expected. Heavy rains will cover eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia.
Myrtle Beach is the largest of the beach communities that string almost entirely along the South Carolina and southern North Carolina coasts. It has about 15,000 permanent residents and has been credited with having housed 100,000 during the height of the vacation season. It is the site of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, a jet fighter base.
One death already was attributed to the storm. RICHARD WATS, 40, was killed near Whiteville, N. C., when his car skidded on a wet highway and overturned.
The U. S. Weather Bureau made clear very early that Helene was an extremely dangerous storm. It warned that storm tides would be 10 feet higher than normal -- perhaps higher in some places. Low coastal areas would be flooded and people who didn't get out before the storm hit wouldn't get out.
With the marks of 1954's Hazel and 1955's Connie, Diane and Ione still visible in some places, beach residents took the warning seriously.
Civil Defense officials, National Guardsmen, the Civil Air Patrol, highway patrolmen and local officials organized swiftly to see that lives -- and as much property as possible -- were safeguarded.
In some communities evacuation was mandatory. In others only a handful of property owners stayed in the exposed areas.
Only disaster workers and guards remained on Carolina Beach, N. C., a community of some 3,500 permanent residents. A survey showed only five families remaining on Wrightsville Beach, a community of 3,400.
The others sought safety in nearby Wilmington, N. C., some 500 in public shelters.
The same picture was painted along the South Carolina beaches.
Officials feared the storm would throw its biggest punch at high tide.
Red Cross representative HOWARD ANDERSON, who witnessed the devastation of Cameron, La., by hurricane Audry last year, said: "The biggest damage is the flooding water. When that water is driven by high winds, it can be rough."
The hurricane shifted slightly toward the north early today. Its earlier course would have pushed the center between Charleston and Georgetown, S. C.
The Red Cross announced in Washington that 48 emergency shelters had been set up along the coast for evacuated families.
More than 50 disaster workers were routed to the area from Beaufort, S. C., north to Wilmington, N. C. It was one of the greatest concentrations in recent years.
An emergency radio communications unit was established at Florence, S. C.
North Carolina's Gov. LUTHER H. HODGES, attending a crusade sermon of evangelist Billy Graham in Charlotte, N. C., left in the middle of the service. He flew to the capital at Raleigh to confer with Civil Defense officials on disaster plans.
About 15 families on the Isle of Palms refused to seek inland shelter.
Mayor S. V. SETTILE said, "We pleaded and begged with them to leave but they were determined to sit it out -- they want to try and protect their property as much as possible."
Just north of Charleston, on low-lying Goat Island, HENRY and BLANCHE HOLLOWAY also refused to leave. The couple, in their 80's said, "God is going to take care of us all right."
Civil defense operations in South Carolina were being directed from the governor's office in Columbia. Guard units were alerted in 10 South Carolina communities that might fall in the path of the storm.
Such large resort areas as Wrightsville and Carolina beaches in North Carolina, both hard hit by Hurricane Hazel, put their disaster plans into operation early last night.
Helene was the first hurricane to strike or seriously menace the Carolinas in more than three years. But the marks of the killer Hazel in 1954 and Connie, Diane and Ione in 1955 still have not been wholly erased.
Carol and Edna also struck the U.S. in 1954, sweeping on into Long Island and New England and causing some 80 deaths between them.
The Daily Times-News Burlington North Carolina 1958-09-27