Labor Day is the saddest day

Published September 3, 2019

By Tom Campbell

Growing up, Labor Day was the saddest day of the year because the next day school started. Later on, it remained sad because it signified the end of summer vacation and a faster pace of life until the next vacation day, Thanksgiving.

 Anymore it is sad because it has become the standard bearer for tropical storms in our state. This is by no means an exhaustive study but, as someone who grew up in Eastern Carolina and has owned property along the coast, I wanted to confirm or deny that theory.

Hurricanes and storms have long been a part of North Carolina history. There is longstanding conjecture that it was just such a storm that struck the Outer Banks, creating what we now know is The Lost Colony. It’s a great myth not confirmed by any archeological evidence.  

For most of us of a certain age, Hurricane Hazel, which hit our coast October 15, 1954, is the one by which all are measured. It was the only category 4 storm to hit our state in modern history and left devastation in its path. I well remember there was a drive-in theatre just outside Morehead City and the big screen was blown away. The owners, somewhat tongue and cheek, changed the marquee to say “Gone with the Wind.” My father was General Manager of WNCT-TV in Greenville and the station had just completed construction of an 800-foot broadcast tower shortly before Hazel hit. Dad stayed awake all night worried the storm would topple the new tower. Fortunately, it didn’t.

1955 was a big storm year in North Carolina. Hurricane Connie hit August 12, followed five days later by Hurricane Diane, then the worst of that year’s bunch, Ione, struck a month later, September 17th.

Many, especially in the Charlotte region, remember Hurricane Hugo on September 22, 1989. The Piedmont, especially Raleigh, recalls the massive rains and damage from Hurricane Fran on September 5, 1996. Then there was the Labor Day storm, Dennis, in 1999. The outer bands of the storm dumped sheets of rain and I remember watching the opening football game of the year between NC State and East Carolina in rain so hard it was difficult to read the numbers on the jerseys.

Hurricane Floyd was devastating along our rivers on September 15, 1999, with flooding unseen as far inland as Rocky Mount. We had a few years of respite, but Hurricane Isobel struck on September 18, 2003. Irene was a name few along our coastal area will forget. It hit just before the Labor Day, August 27, 2011. 

We’re still recovering from Hurricane Matthew on October 8, 2016, and then there was Florence, not so powerful a storm, but one that stayed off our coast for days, striking us September 14thof 2018.

Now there’s Dorian and I’m not wishing anyone bad fortune but we’ve had our share of misery in North Carolina. We’d just as soon not have this one in the history books.