Sea Level, NC Brief History

Data on Hurricanes for Sea Level,Carteret County

by Harrell C. Taylor Sr.

Sea Level, with a population of about 450, is situated in eastern Carteret County. Sea Level is where elevation begins and therefore is about the lowest community in North Carolina. From the standpoint of water damage caused by hurricanes it is estimated that on an average 75% of the community is covered by sea water, including sea water in homes.

During one of the earliest hurricanes, probably in the 1870's, Sea Level was completely covered by sea water. This story was handed down by the old folks. They also told the story that on the highest point in Sea Level, cattle were drowned while watermelons and other citrus fruit drifted by second story windows. In this great hurricane, 100% of Sea Level was covered by sea water.

A great storm came out of the southeast in 1879, known as the "Hurricane of 1879." Considerable damage was done to all the coastal area, including Sea Level. A hotel was washed away at Beaufort with the loss of two lives.

The hurricane of August 1899 was certainly one of the most destructive in property and lives lost. In this great hurricane, Sea Level lost ten of the best commercial fishermen; eight of them being men with families.

The hurricane of 1913 was equally a storm of extra high tides and destruction of property, especially fishing crafts. Boats were carried ashore, while many were driven high upon the land. It took many weeks to re-float them. Many homes, stores, sawmills and fish houses were greatly damaged.

The hurricane of September 1933 is one that will long be remembered. This was one of the worst known to our people. The wind velocity was certainly the greatest ever recorded. The sea water covered at least 95% of Sea Level. Homes were washed away from their foundations and stores, also were washed away. A father and his three sons were lost in this hurricane. (His father's name was Jimmy Hamilton and for that reason the storm is called the "Jimmy Hamilton Storm" by most residents of eastern Carteret County.) Many homes registered a depth of several feet of sea water. Property damage was high as storm winds blew and rolling waves swept across the community to meet the incoming surge of the ocean waves after the Outer Banks or beach became broken into several inlets.

The hurricane of 1944 was almost as destructive as sea water covered most of the Sea Level community. Houses and boats were damaged.

Carol, Edna and Hazel (Hazel washed out the North River Bridge) visited our coast in the fall of 1954 doing considerable damage to the coast and flooding Sea Level. Again damage was done to buildings and boats.

The last great hurricane was named Ione (September 20). This storm was equally as destructive as the other bad ones. Fish houses, stores, and warehouses were washed away. Sea tide covered most of the community. Boats and nets were greatly damaged. No loss of life was reported. Repairing and rebuilding resulted in a great loss of time.

Harrell Cullen Taylor, Sr. was born at Sea Level in Carteret County in 1898. He became a successful businessman and served as trustee for a local bank and two terms as a member of the Carteret County Board of Commissioners. He received an official patent for an "oyster dredge" and was Notary and unofficial historian for the community until his death in 1968.

"Data on Hurricanes for Sea Level, Carteret County" was made available to Mailboat by his daughter, Lena Taylor Respess, of Sea Level, N. C.

Reprinted from MAILBOAT, Spring, Vol.1, No. 1

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