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If you want to buy anything in a store, it seems you must plan your trip several months in advance. My wife and I were looking for a pair of shorts for our son this past weekend, but many of the stores were already stocking winter coats. At this rate, we'll have to buy Easter eggs at Thanksgiving.

Naturally, the "back to school" items have been in stores since Memorial Day. Every time I see those stacks of composition books, I think back to 1984. In September of 1984, many local schools got an extended summer vacation courtesy of a hurricane named Diana. Diana was more bluff than bluster for the western and central Carolinas, but she gave quite a scare to coastal residents.

Many North Carolina folks were still on edge because of the record damage/death toll from the March 1984 tornado outbreak. The event spawned 22 tornadoes in the Carolinas in just under 9 hours, killing 57 people. When hurricane season rolled around, people were understandably nervous. In the first few weeks of September, Hurricane Diana made national headlines by strengthening into a Category 4 storm. To make matters worse, she appeared to be headed straight for southeastern NC.

Diana was one of the first major hurricanes to threaten the East Coast directly since the 1960's. Her path was highly erratic, giving forecasters major headaches. In fact, the eye of the storm completed a "loop" off of Bald Head Island before finally coming ashore. Due to Diana's strength, evacuations were widespread. Area schools closed in advance of the storm. Thankfully, Diana weakened significantly in the final hours before landfall- officially coming ashore as a Category 2 storm.

The worst of the effects were felt in New Hanover, Brunswick, and Horry County. Hurricane force winds and 19+ inches of rain slammed into the eastern Carolinas. Diana produced major beach erosion and racked-up over $60 million in damages. Still, many agree that Diana could have been much worse. Indeed, she provided a "dress rehearsal" for bigger storms like Hugo (1989), Fran (1996), and Floyd (1999).

It's been over a decade since a major hurricane made landfall in our area. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to grow complacent over time- a potentially deadly mistake.


By: Jerry Jackson