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Owner of tower rides out Hurricane Matthew in middle of ocean

Posted at 8:40 PM, Oct 08, 2016

Talk about braving the storm.

A North Carolina man and his fiancee are riding out Hurricane Matthew on top of an old Coast Guard light station more than 30 miles off the Atlantic coast.

Richard Neal is the owner of Frying Pan Tower , a platform that is about 100 or so feet above the ocean, only reachable by helicopter or boat. While the 360-degree views of sunsets and sunrises are amazing, there's no land in sight.

Neal purchased the light station from the government after the Coast Guard abandoned it 2004, saying GPS and radar made the light station obsolete for ships navigating the shallow Frying Pan Shoals.

Neal rents the tower out as a vacation home, touting the mild weather and good fishing in the Gulf Stream below.

"I can honestly say that this is a solid old beast," Neal said of the light station during a brief phone interview with The Associated Press on Saturday as the center of the storm turned toward him.

"We are getting some amazingly huge waves that make it shake and tremor," he said. "But steel is amazingly tough."

Neal said he believed the tower would be safe because he "accidentally" rode out Hurricane Arthur on it two years ago. That time he and his guests got trapped by the storm and couldn't leave. Arthur and Matthew had about the same wind speeds as they approached North Carolina.

"We knew all the tower would do is shake and leak," he said.

Neal said he coordinated with the Coast Guard and acknowledged he would be on his own should anything happen to the tower.

Neal said he and his fiancee talked about going back to the mainland two or three times but made the decision to stay.

"You know she really must love me if she came out with me," he said.