Postcards from Fran: Fuel for Fires and Sustenance for Soldiers

This account of Hurricane Fran in Fayetteville comes from Geneva Gray, a graduate research assistant at the State Climate Office.

Hurricane Fran wreaked havoc across the Coastal Plain and Piedmont just weeks after I started Kindergarten. My younger brother and I were 3 and 5 years old, respectively, and we watched my parents frantically prepare for the incoming storm. My parents, not being ones to let children idle, quickly put us to work filling up the bathtubs and sinks of our Fayetteville home with water.

I didn’t know this was because we were on well water; I thought it was something everyone did. That made for an interesting situation a couple of years ago, when I started to fill up the bathtubs in preparation for a storm. My then-fiancée (now husband) had to explain to me that city water would keep flowing even if the power went out. Whatever; it still doesn’t taste as good as my parents’ well water!

My dad was a First Sergeant in the Army stationed at Fort Bragg. He not only had to make sure his family was prepared, but that his direct reports and their families were all set for the storm. He left us at home to finish preparing while he drove to a couple of his soldiers’ homes to lend a hand.

Damage in a yard in Fayetteville. (Image courtesy of the Fayetteville Observer)

He arrived home shortly before the rain started to pick up, and we hunkered down for the night. We all slept in my parents’ bedroom, which was on the south side of our trailer. My brother and I slept in the large-for-us walk-in closet to stay away from the windows. My parents would make their way into the closet as well if conditions worsened.

The wind was scary, and the rain was loud. The sounds seemed to last throughout the entire night. There was one brief period where I remember waking up to silence. My mother, seeming to know her kids were stirring, came into the closet to tell me the storm wasn’t over yet. She explained that it was the eye of the storm, and that it was going to get worse again before it got better. I didn’t really understand at the time, but I trusted her.

I didn’t wake up again until the morning. It was dark because no lights were on in the house. I ventured out of the closet and the house looked fine. Nothing was out of place. Well, my room was still a mess, but the hurricane didn’t do that.

Fallen trees on a Fayetteville home. (Image courtesy of the Fayetteville Observer)

I could hear my parents outside so I wandered over to have a look. My parents and a few neighbors were gathered on the north end of our trailer. As I rounded the corner, I saw the largest pine tree in existence laying six inches away from my brother’s bedroom window. It fell across our neighbor’s driveway, bringing down power lines and fence posts along its way.

We were without power for nearly a week due to that large pine’s mighty fall. It only took out power to our house and our neighbors’ homes. Given the widespread damage, it took a while for the repair crews to get around to us. In the meantime, my father’s freezer full of meat was slowly thawing. The roads were clear before the power came back, so he trucked the meat and his grill up to the base to have a BBQ for his soldiers. The meat would have gone bad otherwise.

As for that tree, my dad and neighbors took several chainsaws to it as us kids moved and stacked the logs. We burned the last of that tree in a bonfire in the year 2000. Tragedy can be turned into S’mores, given enough time.