Coastal NC, Hurricane BARBARA Hits Coast, Aug 1953


Elizabeth City, N. C. (AP) -- A shrieking hurricane swept its away across the eastern North Carolina capes last night and early this morning. Winds up to 90 miles an hour were reported.
At least one man was killed and five more were reported injured.
The big storm, first major hurricane of the season, moved on into Virginia and headed up the coast after lashing a wide area from Morehead City to Elizabeth City.
Striking Norfolk at 6 a.m. the hurricane moved steadily northward and headed for southern New Jersey where it was expected to strike this afternoon. Hurricane warnings were displayed as far north as Cape May, N. J., and storm warnings were up to Cape Cod, Mass.
The Norfolk Weather Bureau reported shortly after 6 o'clock that the winds had begun to diminish dropping to an average of 35 miles per hour with top gusts of 56 miles per hour. It had reached its peak at Norfolk at 4:30 a.m., with an average of 53 miles per hour and a top gust of 76 miles per hour. At Cape Henry the average velocity was 55 miles per hour. The hurricane itself bears winds up to 80 miles per hour over a small area near the center and gales extend outward 140 miles.
On the North Carolina coast power and communication lines were torn down, trees uprooted and broken, roofs and signs blown away. High tides and torrential rains flooded streets, highways and basements.
Residents Warned.
Forewarned, however, residents battened down everything that could be, evacuated the most dangerous areas and craced for the blow. Damage, as a result, was relatively light. Much of the North Carolina area swept by the storm is sparsely populated.
The long, sandy beaches from Wilmington to Kitty Hawk were packed with vacationers when the storm was reported. There was no general evacuation order, but thousands moved inland before the hurricane struck.
HOUSTON JERNIGAN, 46-year-old Dunn, N. C., department store owner, was blown off a fishing pier by fringe winds at Wrightsville Beach, near Wilmington, and carried out to sea.
Boatswain's Mate 1-C DUDLEY LEWIS, skipper of a Coast Guard picket boat trying to rescue JERNIGAN, was thrown by the churning water through his boat's windshield and had to be hospitalized.
Four Marines at the Cherry Point Marine Airbase were reported slightly injured.
There were narrow escapes, too. Concrete blocks nicked the heels of a couple fleeing from their trailer when a 60-foot-long wall at the Morehead City yacht basin was blown flat. The trailer and several automobiles were smashed.
90 Mile Wind.
The strongest winds -- an estimated 90 miles an hour -- struck Cape Hatteras and Cherry Point. Elsewhere 70 miles was reported near the peak.
The 398-foot Norwegian tanker, Marna, was out of control and directly in the storm's path some 22 miles southeast of Cape Lookout, N. C. But a Coast Guard officer reported later the vessel apparently weathered the storm.
Called BARBARA for the second letter of the alphabet, the storm was discovered only Wednesday 325 miles east of Daytona Beach, Fla. Yesterday it skirted along the South Carolina coast before banging into land along North Carolina's outward bulge. It ripped into Morehead City and Beaufort and the surrounding beaches. Gales hit the big Marine base at Camp LeJeune, but caused only superficial damage. Cherry Point was harder hit, but not damaged seriously. Training craft had been flown to inland bases and big planes firmly anchored. Occupants of trailer camps were moved into brick buildings on the base for safety.
New Bern, where the Neuse and Trent rivers converge, suffered most from high water. Then the storm swept northward into Elizabeth City as it also isolated the small communities along the outer banks.
In many places refugees from exposed areas crowded candle-lit hotel lobbies and schools, singing old refrains and casting only an occasional shudder at the storm raging outside.
The storm whipped into Morehead City and Atlantic Beach with sheets of rain and generally estimated 70 mile winds.
The resort area of more than 12,000 persons was blacked out by power failures and blown down telephone and telegraph wires -- but apparently escaped with little serious damage.
On exposed Atlantic Beach, a roof was lifted from a garage apartment and smashed against a neighboring cottage. A house also was unroofed at nearby Newport.
A roofing company in Morehead City also lost its roof.
A dozen or so large trees, one to 2 feet in diameter, were uprooted in Morehead City, some falling against the houses.
But there were no immediate reports of serious injuries in the Morehead City -- Atlantic Beach area.
Shelter Set Up.
Some 2,000 vacationers along the beach headed for shelters set up in schools, hotel lobbies and other buildings in Morehead City and further inland, leaving the Beach area almost deserted.
Atlantic Beach Mayor ALFRED COOPER, Morehead Police Capt. BUCK NEWSOME and Chief R. B. NEWELL, commander of the Ft. Macon Coast Guard Station, all estimated peak winds at 70 to 73 miles per hour. The storm carried a 1-2 punch. IT first struck with strong force from about 4:30 to 6 p.m. Then there was a strange lull with only fitful rain and breezes, until about 8:30 when the gales started howling again and torrential rain resumed.
F. D. HOLLOWELL, Red Cross field representative, said about 300 persons were taking refuge in the high school shelter in Morehead City with hundreds of others scattered among other shelter centers.
The lowest point on the barometer at the Coast Guard Station was 29.19. It dipped there about 5 p.m. and remained at the low point until it began rising slowly about 8:30 p.m.
Roads Flooded.
Streets and highways were under up to two feet of water in places but most of them were passable.
The same general picture of damage followed the storm's path across North Carolina.
At New Bern, eight to ten stores were flooded as high water filled the lower portions of the business district. Three fire alarms sounded during the storm. One was a quickly-extinguished fire in the switchboard of the Gaston Hotel. A suburgan house burned to the ground. Firemen couldn't get over the Jack Smith Creek bridge to reach it.
Most of the coastal shrimp fleet found safe harbor early, many of them putting in at Washington, N. C.
Rescue workers organized quickly as the storm approached.
The Coast Guard cancelled all leaves for personnel on ships and shore stations. Four Coast Guard planes flew over the outer banks dropping messages warning residents. Red Cross workers were alerted. Members of the North Carolina emergency radio network and the Civil Air Patrol worked throughout the night handling messages to and from the blacked out area.
Town Isolated.
The town of Avon on Hatteras Island was islolated for a time by water over the highway.
The Salvation Army set up first aid headquarters for Elizabeth City and the beach areas and the high for evacuees.
The Oregon Inlet ferry suspended operations about 4:30 p.m., yesterday because of high winds and rough water.
At the North Carolina 4-H Club at Mantco a group of farm youngsters from the Albemarle area played games in the dark recreation hall as they waited out the storm. The building is sturdy and situated on high ground.
Plans to evacuate two boys camps -- Camp Morehead near Morehead City and Camp Seagull in Pamilco county -- were cancelled as heavy rains subsided there.
Water poured over roads and highways throughout a large area during the storm, but all except a few remained passable. Highway 17 was closed by high water for a time between Elizabeth City and Hertford; and near Edenton.
WInds ranging between 60 and 65 miles per hour were reported at Little Washington.

Storm Damage In Beaufort High.
Washington, N. C. (AP) -- Storm damage in Beaufort County was estimated at one million dollars today by W. L. McGAHEY, county farm agent.
McGAHEY said farm crops, mostly corn, beans, cotton and tobacco, suffered from the fringe of the hurricane which swept up coastal North Carolina yesterday and last night.
Indications were that damage in neighboring Hyde County would run to about one-quarter million dollars, also mostly to farm crops.
Although some roof coverings were blown off and trees uprooted, there apparently was no major damage to buildings in the area.
Corn appeared hurt worst. Since most of the tobacco crop has been harvested. It did not suffer major damage, McGAHEY said.

The Robesonian Lumberton North Carolina 1953-08-14