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Wilmington, NC

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Frying Pan Shoals Overview

The Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower has served as a navigational fixture to the Cape Fear area since 1966 when it was installed.  The Texas Tower platform was installed to replace lightships that have served as beacons anchored in the shoals area since 1854.  In 1984 the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) installed a Coastal Marine Automated Network (CMAN) on the light tower to provide mariners with automated weather and wave information. In 2003, the light tower has been deemed a hazard to navigation and it became too unstable to service the onboard weather equipment.  As a result, the NDBC installed a buoy approximately one half mile south of the tower.  After a few ship strikes this buoy has been relocated approximately 8 miles west-southwest of the tower location.

The location that this weather and wave equipment serves is unique in that the area is influenced by the Gulf Stream year round and by the colder shelf waters during winter months.  The tower location is also near one of the climatologically favored hurricane tracks in the Atlantic Basin.  The Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower and the replacement buoy have seen their share of significant weather events over the years including Hurricane Isabel in 2003, Hurricane Gustav in 2002,  Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd, and Irene in 1999, Hurricane Bonnie in 1998, Hurricanes Bertha and Fran in 1996,  and many indirect hits over the years.  The Frying Pan Shoals are also a favored cyclogenesis area for Nor'Easters including the March 1993 Super Storm.


National Weather Service
Wilmington Weather Forecast Office
2015 Gardner Drive
Wilmington, NC 28405
(910) 762-4289

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Page Last Modified July 31, 2005
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