North Carolina

Tattered by Hurricane Dorian, ‘Steve’ the flag being sold to help Outer Banks recover

After the sale of Kevin the Flag amassed nearly $11,000 for Hurricane Florence victims last year, the owner of a famed light tower off the coast of North Carolina is at it again.

This time with Steve.

Richard Neal, a Charlotte software engineer who owns Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower, is auctioning off the U.S. flag — nicknamed Steve — that withstood Dorian’s 90-mph winds when it hit the North Carolina coast Sept. 6.

“Ripped and torn, frayed and fatigued but not destroyed,” Neal wrote on the eBay page where the flag is up for auction. “Old Glory ‘Steve’ survived and will continue to represent us as Americans who carry on even in the worst of times.”

The proceeds will be donated to hurricane victims living on Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks, one of the hardest hit areas in North Carolina, according to a post on the Frying Pan Tower Facebook page.

Offers had topped $1,050 on Monday — a drastic shift since Neal first listed the flag at $1 the day before.

Nearly 50 bids from just 14 bidders have been placed since then, according to the eBay page. Bidding ends Sept. 22 at 7 p.m.

Neal has asked that whoever wins Steve either retire the flag or display it “with honor and respect.”

The decision to fly Steve from a tower 32 miles off the North Carolina coast during a hurricane was not without pushback.

Some critics harped it was disrespectful, but Neal said Dorian’s unpredictable path made it difficult to determine at what point they should remove it.

By the time the hurricane’s path was clear, he said it was too late.

“We know that some will not agree with the flag being up in this weather but truthfully, it is not our way to not fly Old Glory,” Neal said in a Facebook post. “Weather just a week ago was forecast to miss us and not hit us head on.”

It’s not the first time Frying Pan Tower has flown a U.S. flag amid inclement weather.

During Hurricane Florence last year, a live cam on the tower showed a different flag being shredded by the wind and rain. That one, nicknamed Kevin, even had its own Twitter page.

Neal retired Kevin after the storm and auctioned it on eBay — just like Steve.

The winning bid was for $10,900 and went to an Ohio family mourning a man who died from cancer in Charlotte.

Coincidentally, he was was also named Kevin.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.
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