Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Remembering Hugo

Posted September 21, 2009

How many of you remember Hurricane Hugo 20 years ago today? Where were you? What do you recall most about that storm?

I was in Wilmington where we thought the storm would make landfall. I was scheduled to spend a windy night at the Hilton along the Cape Fear River. CBS Reporter Harry Smith had a room just three doors down from mine. WRAL Videographer Keith Baker and I ended up spending the night on the floor at WWAY Television. We got up in the early morning hours and drove to Wrightsville Beach to chronicle the damage which was not all that bad. The next day we drove south to Long Beach, Yaupon Beach, Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach to survey the damage. The more we drove the greater the damage we found.

The worst of the damage was in the Charleston area. Hugo was a wake-up call from the Atlantic coast. It was the most powerful hurricane to strike the US in 20 years. Hugo hit South Carolina with 130 mile an hour winds and a storm surge peaking at 20 feet. Hugo’s high winds knocked bridges off their pilings and devastated forests. Hugo’s winds were still swirling at 85 miles an hour by the time they hit Charlotte bringing down an estimated 100,000 trees in the Queen City. Residents lost power for up to two weeks. Hugo’s winds damaged 2.7 million acres of forests in 26 North Carolina counties. Further west in Boone seven inches of rain saturated the soil.

Where were you the day Hugo hit and what do you remember? Please share.


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  • 4Cats Sep 21, 2009

    I was in High School at the time, and the football game was cancelled. I lived near Shelby, and our neighbor, who was pregnant at the time came over to our house to stay because her husband was away. I thought it was pretty cool, since we didn't have a ton of damage at our house. Seeing the wind shift directions as the storm passed was neat. I remember seeing all the devastation on the news though and being thankful.

  • lseltmann Sep 21, 2009

    I was on campus at UNC-W. Though we were encouraged to leave, it wasn't mandatory. My residence hall made t-shirts to sell that said "Where did you go during Hugo?" There were many students that went home to Charlotte and right into the path of Hugo.

  • vonyapuckett Sep 21, 2009

    I was fortunate to be a part of a group who carried a tractor trailer load of supplies to Mclellansville the weekend following the storm. I'll never forget the older antebellum homes with 12-20 foot ceilings with water marks at the top of the ceilings. It was really surreal to turn the corner of a street and find a house blocking the roadway, and boats in the middle of the highway medium 5 miles inland. I'll also never forget the elderly couple who asked us to come into their home and showed us the toilet which rose up to the ceiling of the bathroom with the storm surge and the attic where they were forced to ride out terrifying hours until the storm passed...

  • jbass2 Sep 21, 2009

    I lived in Charleston at the time, but evacuated about 10 p.m. the night before Hugo struck because we had heard there would be a mandatory evacuation of the the entire lowcountry area at 6 a.m. Even then, it took me almost 5 hours to get to Florence, SC (usually a 2 1/2 hour trip) where I spent about 4 hours in a hotel - not sleeping. Then on to Burlington at daylight. Sure was glad I decided to push on when I found out later that the roof of the hotel across the street from the one where I'd stayed blew off when Hugo whipped through.

  • lovetheheels Sep 21, 2009

    I was working for then-First Union National Bank in downtown Atlanta. We had been on the phone that day with our counterparts in Savannah, worried about how they would fare in the storm. The next day, we got word about what had happened in Charlotte and how the storm blew out many of the windows in the upper floors of our fairly new corporate headquarters there. Whole departments had documents and equipment soaked, the top paladium windows were damaged, and of course, we heard about all of the trees blown down all over Charlotte. It was pretty bad for a while until things got back to normal...

  • wdwbmw Sep 21, 2009

    I was teaching in the Wake County Schools. On the 20th the decision was made that there would be no school on the 21st because the hurricane was sure to impact us. We could have gone to school that day with no problem, but we did not know that until after the fact. Thankfully that was a bullet that we dodged.

  • blytle Sep 21, 2009

    I was working as a residence director at Meredith College, responsible for a residence hall housing about 150 women, so I was up most of the night watching tv and listening to the weather radio updates of storm watches and warnings in case the storm came through Raleigh. It was quite a relief when we realized that it was not going to impact us, but so sad for people in Charlotte and elsewhere who had to deal with the damage.

  • thefensk Sep 21, 2009

    We had lived in NC for less than a month and it was a rude welcome. We had survived hurricanes before, along the Texas Coast, but it worried us quite a bit. It was just windy and rainy in Chatham County where we lived. Nothing like Fran or Hurricane Carla in 1961 Houston. For us at least.

  • khoggard Sep 21, 2009

    I had left Wilmington where I was in school at UNCW. My parents wanted me to come home instead of staying in Trask Coliseum with other students. I went home, only to return after the weekend to find nothing much had happened on campus. There were a few trees down but that was about it.

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