NORTH CAROLINA - Many of us who have lived in North Carolina for a while cringe when we hear that a tropical system with a name that starts with the letter F has formed. Some of the most destructive hurricanes that have hit the state in recent history have started with F.


What You Need To Know


  • Hurricanes Fran and Floyd were some of the most descutive hurricanes of the mid and late 90s in North Carolina.

  • Fran was the last category 3, or major hurricane, to make landfall in the state.

  • Hurricane Floyd caused even more destruction than Fran due to devastating flooding.

  • More recently, Hurricane Florence produced catastrophic flooding and rainfall amounts that were even much higher than Floyd.

A couple of those devastating storms came in the mid to late 90s.

Hurricane Fran

Photo Courtesy of FEMA

Hurricane Fran was the last category 3, or major hurricane, to make landfall in North Carolina.  It came inland on the evening of September 5, 1996 near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. 

Fran left a path of destruction from the coast through the central part of the state. The National Weather Service reported that around 75 percent of homes in Wilmington sustained some type of damage.

Many beachfront homes and several piers were completely destroyed by the strong winds and storm surge.

Hurricane-force wind gusts from Fran made it as far inland as the Triangle. Numerous trees were downed across Raleigh causing power outages that lasted for up to a week. 

In the Raleigh and Wake County area alone, the storm caused an estimated $900 million in damage.

The powerful hurricane killed 37 people in total with 24 of those deaths in North Carolina. Fran also caused flooding in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.

Hurricane Floyd

Photo Courtesy of Army Corp of Engineers

Three years after Fran, Hurricane Floyd made landfall at nearly the same location along North Carolina's coast.  It was a category 2 storm when it came inland on September 16, 1999.

While Floyd's winds were not as strong as Fran, its heavy rain caused more deaths and destruction than Fran.

Hurricane Floyd caused an estimated $6 billion in damage and killed 57 people in the U.S. Thirty-five of those deaths were in North Carolina.

Floyd dumped around 15 to 20 inches of rain over eastern North Carolina about a week after Tropical Storm Dennis had produced heavy rain in some of the same areas.  That resulted in flooding along every stream and river in the eastern half of the state.

North Carolina's Secretary of Health and Human Services at the time, H. David Bruton, is quoted as saying "Nothing since the Civil War has been as destructive to families here."

Hurricane Florence

More recently, Hurricane Florence caused flooding that was even more catastrophic than Floyd in some parts of southeastern North Carolina. Florence was a category 1 storm based on wind speed when it made landfall near Wrightsville Beach on September 14, 2018.

The storm then slowed drastically, stalling over part of the state. Rainfall amounts up to almost three feet were measured in southeastern North Carolina, creating historical flooding.

Fourty-two deaths have been attributed to Florence in just North Carolina alone with $16.7 billion in damage in the state.

2020 Hurricane Season

Fortunately, this year's "F" storm has not been a big problem for North Carolina.  Tropical Storm Fay formed off the state's Outer Banks Thursday afternoon, July 9, bringing occasional downpours, gusty winds, and the danger of rip currents to parts of the coast. 

However, Fay did make history. The storms with names starting with F that have caused destruction in North Carolina all occurred in September.

Fay's formation in the first half of July is the earliest an "F" storm has ever formed in the Atlantic basin. 

A very active 2020 season is forecast to continue. 

September typically brings the most tropical activity of the year.