Auction begins for resilient US flag ripped by Florence. Bidding at $2,550 and rising.

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The U.S. flag that gained national attention as it was ripped to shreds on a live cam during Hurricane Florence is up for auction today and bids are already in the thousands.

Images of the flag refusing to surrender to the storm’s wind gusts came to represent “who we are as America,” owner Richard Neal told McClatchy reporter Matt Martinez as Hurricane Florence approached the coast.

Neal, a Charlottean, owns the Frying Pan Tower light station where the flag flew during the storm. He says 100 percent of the money cleared from the auction will go the American Red Cross and its relief efforts.

Bidding started Thursday at $10 and was up to $2,550 as of Friday morning, according to eBay. More than 60 bidders have been involved so far, says the site. The auction ends Sunday.

The flag, which is now in Charlotte, earned several nicknames as it was watched by thousands during the storm, including “The Hurricane Florence Flag” and, oddly, “Kevin,” Neal says in a Facebook post.

News outlets across the country featured stories on the flag’s slow demise on live TV during the height of Hurricane Florence. (After landfall of the storm, the live cam feed switched to showing “highlights” instead of live footage, reported McClatchy.)

Veterans groups complained the sight of a ripped flag flapping in the wind was a sign of disrespect, reported McClatchy, while others came to admire the image as defiant.

“That flag is a great representation of the American spirit,” Grady McCoy, vice president of Flag and Banner, told Martinez. “For me it says, ‘this too shall pass,’ that we’re going to get through this.”

Richard Neal has owned Frying Pan Tower since 2010, when he paid $75,000 for the former Coast Guard lighthouse, according to a May 2018 article in the Charlotte Observer. He put the tower up for sale in May, but retained majority control of the site.

It is now a bed and breakfast inn, operated by Neal and his partners.

The tower was built in 1964 to warn passing ships of the shallow Frying Pan Shoals and it was staffed by the Coast Guard until 1979, when the beacon was automated, the Observer reported.

GPS navigation technology eventually made the tower obsolete, Neal told the Observer.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs