FRYING PAN TOWER, N.C. (WNCN) – Life quarantined is hard for a lot of people, but for one North Carolina man, he knows a thing or two about it.
Richard Neal, director of nonprofit FP Tower Inc., is working from home and quarantined 34 miles off the coast of North Carolina at the famous Frying Pan Tower.
This is the place where video went viral of the American flag being ripped by winds from Hurricanes Dorian and Florence. Both flags were auctioned off and the proceeds donated to hurricane victims.
WNCN’s Laura Smith spoke to him about how being quarantined at sea is going.
“I am not too worried about social distancing out here. Like everyone else, I just have a slightly better view and I never have to mow the yard,” Neal said.
When asked if he gets lonely, he said yes and no. He has spent much more time out there than this.
“The longest I’ve been out here in one time is six months. I will tell you the ability to communicate with people, like we are doing right now through the internet, it’s so critical to maintain your mental health,” said Neal.
Neal is enjoying the 360-degree view of the water and marine life, but said right now he’s doing more work than play. He works 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at his desk each day for a financial firm in Charlotte.
“You can’t just watch TV the whole time and you can’t just work the whole time, so get good balance,” Neal said. “Get up, get some exercise, walk in the park if you are allowed to. I can work all around here and get a lot of exercise.”
The Frying Pan Tower is former U.S. Coast Guard Light Station. Neal and a team of volunteers are restoring the 65-foot structure for research and so that it will last another 50 years. The tower is equipped with bedrooms, has full electricity, kitchen, and a helipad.
Neal said the tower is built to withstand hurricanes. He has been in the tower for three of them.
“The base of the tower underneath me is about 65 feet so even a 20 or 30-foot wave, which by the way looks like a hill rolling past, even that is way underneath us,” said Neal.
Severe weather moved through North Carolina on Monday. Neal was on the tower at the time and said the waves crashing up against the tower were massive. He lowered a GoPro to capture the 20-foot waves.
When asked if it made him nervous, he said yes, of course.
“I just can’t even describe what it’s like to see a tower of a mountain of water rolling past,” he said.
Winds from Monday’s severe weather ripped the American Flag flying at the tower. Neal removed it and replaced it with a new one the next day. Right now he doesn’t know if they will auction the flag off or add it to the stockpile.
There’s no word on how long Neal will be staying out at sea, but he says he looking forward to life without coronavirus so he can get back to enjoying the tower and fish.