When it comes to North Carolina hurricanes, we know the big ones… Floyd, Fran, Hazel just to name a few. But there are lesser-known storms that neary became legends in their own right. Hurricane Helene almost became the strongest landfalling hurricane in our state’s history back in September of 1958. The storm formed east of the Leeward Islands, and intensified into a Category 4 hurricane as it barreled straight for the Cape Fear area.
But the storm made a last-minute turn toward the northeast just shy of landfall, keeping the eye offshore of the Outer Banks. Although the strongest winds remained over the ocean, gusts of 135 mph were reported in Wilmington, a record that still stands. Nearly 9 inches of rain occurred with the storm, and over $11 million in damage was reported. Hurricane Helene reminds us that even a “near miss” can be devastating if a hurricane is strong enough.