City waits for weather tower damage report


SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) — In Southport, the questions these days is: can and will the city restore its fallen weather tower?

The city lost a piece of history last week during severe weather.

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It’s still broken and off limits, but without any expert advice, all the city can do is wait.

“Our next step is that we had a structural engineer to look at the tower and we have not heard back yet with a report from them,” Mayor Joe Pat Hatem said.

“How could something make it through Hazel up to Florence and still be up, yet the weather didn’t seem to be that bad that night,” Hatem said.

Hatem says the Board of Alderman discussed Thursday night how they are not planning to let this weather tower go.

“We know that we want a tower back,” Hatem said. “We want a weather tower back and we’d like for it to look as much as possible like the one we had.”

Southport Maritime Museum’s Education Curator Katy Menne says the tower is an extension of the history inside the museum.

“If you were along the coast or out to sea along the coast line, you can either look for flags or lights to see what the wind was doing, what the weather was doing and kind of warn you for safety measures,” Menne said.

Menne says, regardless if the tower stands again outside, the museum’s replica will teach residents and guests its history.

“When everyone woke up to that news break, it was heavy on our hearts because it was so key to the maritime history, our hearts and the culture of this area, North Carolina and the United States,” Menne said.

She says the history dates back decades.

“Before it was the National Weather Service and NOAA, we had the weather bureau,” Menne said. “So it was during President McKinley’s term that they started popping up and starting being used.”

Hatem says Jessie Taylor, the longest running weather tower observer in the nation’s history, lived down the street from the tower.

“She received an award from the Eisenhower administration for her years of service,” Hatem said. “She climbed this and put the hurricane flags up during Hurricane Hazel to warn the citizens and the family is still here.”

While the city waits to hear back from an engineer on what to do next, the museum’s hurricane exhibit features a replica tower that sits near a window that once looked out to the real tower at the waterfront.