Friday, April 12, 2024

Southport’s historic warning tower falls from storm, one of five left in U.S.

Southport’s weather warning tower stood for over a century near the coast. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources)

SOUTHPORT — A weather warning tower erected at the turn of the 20th century on the in Southport fell early Friday morning during a storm that brought heavy gusts of wind to the coast.

The tower was badly damaged in the fall and is set to be removed. Town officials are working on a plan to do what they can to preserve it. Mayor Joe Pat Hatem has requested a structural engineer to offer the city options.

It was installed in 1901 in the Fort Johnston Garrison lawn and survived many powerful storms and hurricanes before collapsing Friday.

Only four other weather warning towers are known to remain standing, according to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR). These towers were installed under the order of President William McKinley by the U.S. Weather Bureau in order to warn ships of hurricanes approaching. These towers were referred to as skeletal frame light towers because of their open metal frames, according to a DNCR release.

The tower was an integral part of the Cape Fear weather system, Southport N.C. Maritime Museum educator coordinator Katy Menne said in a release.

“That construction, that tower, was seen all over,” she said. In 1989, the coastal tower warning network was deactivated. Warning flags flown from the tower before Hurricane Hazel and Florence are on display at the Southport museum.

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