Hurricane Fran formed from a tropical wave that emerged from the west coast of Africa on August 22, 1996. The system became a tropical depression just southeast of the Cape Verde Islands around 8:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), August 23. The tropical depression moved westward at 17 mph for the next few days without major development.
On August 27, while located about 1,000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, the depression became a tropical storm. Fran's intensity fluctuated over the next several days as a result of its proximity to Hurricane Edouard. At one point, Fran reached hurricane status then dropped back down to a tropical storm. However, as Edouard moved farther away, Fran regained hurricane strength. Fran moved on a west northwestward track roughly parallel to the Bahama Islands with the eye remaining a little more than 115 miles to the northeast of the islands.
As Fran moved northeast of the Bahamas on September 4, it strengthened to a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. Fran was steered north northwestward by an upper level low pressure system over Tennessee, then gradually turned northward and struck the North Carolina coast around Cape Fear at 8:30 p.m. EDT, September 5. For a more detailed synopsis of Hurricane Fran's path and meteorological conditions contributing to Fran's development, a complete report entitled "Hurricane Fran Service Assessment" can be found on the National Weather Service's web page.