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Fran's Force Crashes Party, Splits Home

September 07, 1996|STEPHEN BRAUN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HOLLY RIDGE, N.C. — Eddie Harris, a bearded, heavyset man not given to mincing his words, stood there in front of his divided home Friday morning, studying what was left of the stately fir trees that dominate the place.

"I think I'm going to cut every damned pine tree on this property," Harris said.

Harris didn't always feel that way. Not until the night before, when Hurricane Fran descended on his home with all her fury.

Harris, 42, his son, his wife and a couple of his son's friends had been sitting in the kitchen Thursday night, enjoying a few beers as the storm gathered.

"We were partying," having a good time and not worrying much about the approaching hurricane, Harris said.

But as the winds mounted, Harris' wife, Geraldine, became concerned.

"I didn't like the sound of that wind," she recalled Friday. "I wasn't in the mood to joke around, so I went to bed."

The foursome in the kitchen tried to keep the party going, but they weren't having much luck.

"By then, the wind was blowing up," Harris said. "It came in here howling, buddy. It was stacking trees out there like cordwood. Six came down on the backside, one crack after another. . . ."

"It sounded weird," his wife said. "I didn't like the sound of it, so I came back in the kitchen."

There was a pause.

"Then boom! Down comes this sucker like a hydrogen bomb," Harris said.

A massive pine--at least 50 feet tall, with a trunk about 5 feet in diameter--had sliced through the roof, splitting the house and crashing down on the bed where, seconds earlier, Geraldine Harris had been lying.

"The world caved in," she said.

The winds tore through the mangled home, scattering its contents. The five occupants, awed but uninjured, crawled into a corner over which the roof was still largely intact.

*

Harris said his son's friends tried to make a run for it through the howling storm, "but they come back right fast. . . .

"We all hung on for dear life."

By daybreak, the storm had abated. Eddie and Geraldine Harris were out in the yard, taking stock.

Geraldine said Fran wasn't her first hurricane, but it had better be her last.

"If one more of those comes, I'm outta here," she said.

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