It has been 20 years since Hurricane Fran hit North Carolina, but many North Carolinians still have strong memories of it. 

In early September 1996, the storm peaked at Category 3 intensity—with winds of approximately 120 miles per hour—shortly before striking the state’s coast. Fran caused 21 deaths in North Carolina and massive damage, particularly in the Triangle area. Estimates suggest that North Carolina suffered $3.4 billion in damages, not including losses to agriculture.

Duke’s campus itself experienced damage from falling trees and heavy rains during the storm. Photographs from The Chronicle’s archives show trees downed across campus.

The City of Durham declared a curfew before the brunt of the storm Thursday evening, which the University enforced, although a number of students decided to ignore the warning.

Danielle Turnipseed, a resident advisor in the Randolph dormitory at the time, said in a 1996 article in The Chronicle that there were about 100 students from the Blackwell dormitory outside playing touch football during the storm.

The Gilbert-Addoms dormitory experienced some flooding that required students to leave, though students told The Chronicle that they were coping with the storm.

“It’s all right, it was an adventure,” then freshman Jacquelyn Labowskie from Gilbert-Addoms dormitory said in the Sep. 9, 1996 issue. “We had a slumber party across the hall; it was no big deal.”

The ceiling of one room in Windsor Dormitory collapsed after what the resident described as a “waterfall.” Thankfully, the residents had left before the cave-in. Some cars on campus suffered damage from falling trees as well.

The Chronicle reported at the time that damage to Durham was much worse and longer-lasting. Many residents were without power for several days, and some experienced major home damage due to fallen trees.

“Durham is pretty much a wreck. Employees had their houses destroyed, their cars destroyed and lost power,” David Majestic, the director of transportation services at the time, said in a Sep. 9 Chronicle article. Duke bus service did not resume until four days after the storm.

Students and faculty at the Duke Marine Lab evacuated the island, with many sheltering in Durham.

Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek said she recalls deciding to spend the night in the police station so she could be ready to help the next day—which she described as “surreal.”

When Wasiolek made her way to West Campus in the morning, she said she remembers encountering a man with a leaf blower surrounded by fallen trees.

“It looked like someone using a bow and arrow against an entire militia,” she said. 

Current sophomore Frances Beroset, The Chronicle’s university news department head who is from Chapel Hill, said that she was named after Hurricane Fran. 

Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh noted that the University now has regular contact with the National Weather Service and has software used by professional sports teams to monitor for severe weather.

“At this point in time, the advanced notice and monitoring are constant and vigilant,” Cavanaugh said.