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MR. JACKSON GOES TO WASHINGTON

As I write this entry, I can hear the distant crack of fireworks from Wilmington's July 4th celebration. The "pops" are so thunderous, it feels like our poor studio will simply collapse. Thinking back to youthful days in my hometown, our fireworks displays were conducted on a much smaller scale than the "big city". But we still had a lot of fun.

Speaking of big cities... One summer, I had a chance to do a little traveling. Our local electric co-op sponsored an annual writing contest for grade-school students. The top three winners won an all-expense-paid trip to Washington DC. With great excitement, I submitted my entry along with hundreds of other students. To my surprise, I won. I was really excited about the chance to visit Washington- and maybe a little nervous. After all, Raleigh was the biggest city I had visited up to that point. Incidentally, Raleigh was also the starting place for my Washington adventure. Contest winners from co-ops all over the southeastern United States met at the big convention center. After a night of "meet-and-greets" with my fellow travelers, we embarked at the break of dawn on one of the strangest tour buses I had ever seen.

I can still picture that big shiny bus. I believe the proper name for the style is "articulated". In other words, the bus was actually comprised of 2 sections, each segment connected in the middle by an almost accordion-like joint. Whenever the bus driver made a turn, you could look out the window and actually see the passengers in the back of the bus. Very cool- especially to a kid who had never seen such a bus before. Highlights of the trip included visits to the Smithsonian museums & National Mall, Jefferson Memorial, even a boat ride on the Potomac River. Side trips included Arlington Cemetery and Mount Vernon. Our 10 day journey wrapped-up with a formal reception at the Kennedy Center and a special trip to the FBI. To a wide-eyed kid, this was a trip to remember. But I must admit, I was surprised by the weather.

Growing up, every time I saw a picture of Washington DC on the news, everything always seemed to be covered in snow. I guess I just assumed that Washington was always cold, even in the middle of summer. In reality, conditions can be just as hot and miserable "up north" as they are "down south". However, Washington DC is less prone to early season hurricanes than Wilmington, NC. Part of this lies with the slightly cooler water temperatures off the coast of Maryland during the months of June and July.

Even in North Carolina, July hurricanes are rare- but 1996's Hurricane Bertha proved that "exceptions" always exist. Bertha made landfall as a Category 2 storm between Wrightsville and Topsail beaches on July 12, 1996. She delivered a 9 foot storm surge and wind gusts over 100 mph. Bertha reached Category 3 status (115 mph winds) just a few days before, making her the first such storm to form in July since 1926. Bertha was also a large system, with hurricane-force conditions extending over 150 miles. Tropical storm-force winds extended over 300 miles. Of course, Hurricane Bertha is often overshadowed by the more powerful Hurricane Fran, which struck our state just a few weeks later in September 1996.

Many of the records set by Fran would be eclipsed by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. When it comes to hurricanes, there is always a bigger fish...

(SEND COMMENTS TO JERRY AT jjackson@wwaytv3.com)

By: Jerry Jackson