Count down NC's 7 most destructive hurricanes of all time
The damage and deaths wreaked by these storms in the past 60 years has become legendary in North Carolina's history. Where are the worst hurricanes in North Carolina?Posted — Updated
Hurricane season begins on June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30.
7. HURRICANE HUGO
After walloping the low country of South Carolina, Hugo made a bee line for Charlotte. It crushed the Queen City with 85 mph winds and toppled an estimated 100,000 trees, including many stately oaks more than 70 years old.
Twenty-nine counties reported damage from Hugo. Timber losses alone topped $250 million.
Hugo was blamed for 35 deaths, including seven in North Carolina, and shattered dollar records for destruction. Its final price tag was $7.2 billion, but Hurricane Andrew's havoc in Florida broke that national record only three years later.
6. HURRICANE DONNA
Wild and erratic, Donna blasted Florida from two different directions and then took aim at Topsail Island in North Carolina. Wind speeds topped 100 mph, and tides rose 4 to 8 feet above normal.
Donna's destructive journey covered Carteret, Pamlico, Hyde and Tyrell counties. The category 3 hurricane churned up waters in the Albemarle Sound and smacked Elizabeth City with a windy wallop before attacking Tidewater Virginia.
The Crystal Coast drew the wrath of Donna, particularly Atlantic Beach, Beaufort and Morehead City. Residents reported extensive structural damage, severe beach erosion, heavy crop losses and extensive power outages.
Government officials blamed Donna for eight deaths, more than 100 injuries and $25 million of damage in North Carolina.
Donna, though, marked the end of a destructive decade of storms and the beginning of a long stretch of peaceful summers along North Carolina's coast.
5. HURRICANE MATTHEW
Matthew's impact was most felt in eastern North Carolina in Cumberland, Robeson, Wayne, Johnston, Harnett, Lenoir, Nash and Edgecombe counties. Power outages left roughly one million homes without power and closed hundreds of roads. Matthew hit after Tropical Storms Julia and Hermine, causing even more problems for the already saturated soil in the eastern part of the state.
Hundreds of roads were closed, including I-95 and I-40. Thousands were forced to evacuate their homes. In the most dire instances, some people were saved from rooftops by the Coast Guard.
4. HURRICANE FLOYD
Tropical Storm Dennis did Floyd's dirty work, coming ashore 10 days earlier and saturating the soil and filling the rivers. When Floyd made landfall near Wilmington, its relentless rains had nowhere to go but into the streets, highways and houses. Rain fell for more than 60 consecutive hours in some places.
Floyd became North Carolina's biggest killer of the 20th century, claiming 52 lives. Many victims died in their cars, trying to navigate flooded roads, while others perished in their homes, caught off guard by flooding.
Floyd inundated eastern North Carolina, including Rocky Mount, Wilson, Tarboro and Princeville, and put entire communities under water. The storm destroyed more than 8,000 homes and damaged 67,000 more.
Water pollution was rampant as floodwater's covered 4.2 million acres and caused staggering farm and livestock losses. More than 30,000 hogs drowned in the storm.
Overall damage estimates from the storm were mind boggling. The initial estimate of $1.3 billion quickly mushroomed to $6 billion.
One the saddest stories to emerge from Floyd was the lack of flood insurance. Few people had it, and many had believed their homeowners insurance would cover damage from high water.
3. HURRICANE FRAN
With winds still near hurricane strength, Fran blasted the Triangle, hitting the region harder than any hurricane since Hazel. It left a landscape littered without trees in virtually every neighborhood and power outages that lasted for more than a week.
Damage from Fran was so widespread that a state of emergency was declared in all of North Carolina's 100 counties – the first time in state history. Damage was pegged at $2.3 billion, and 24 people died.
2. HURRICANE FLORENCE
Eastern North Carolina rivers like the Cape Fear, Northeast Cape Fear, Lumberton, and Waccamaw saw record flooding. A USGS report noted nine river gauges had floods topping their 1-in-500 year expected return intervals. Peak wind gusts were as high as 105 miles per hour near Wilmington.
Winds gusted to over 100 mph to damage many structures across southeastern North Carolina and storm surge amounts reached over four feet, eroding beaches.
1. HURRICANE HAZEL
Hazel hit the southern coast of North Carolina at the worst time: the year's highest lunar tide, called the "marsh hen tide"by local hunters. The storm surge was a staggering 18 feet at Calabash. Winds were clocked at 150 mph on Holden Beach, and even as far inland as Goldsboro and Kinston, winds whipped at 120 mph. The storm still had hurricane-strength winds when it roared through Raleigh.
As it flattened everything in its path, Hazel quickly earned a nickname: The Bulldozer. Trees snapped like dry spaghetti, littering highways by the thousands. Former soldiers likened the damage to a scene out of World War II.
Nineteen people died, and more than 200 people were hurt during Hazel's march across eastern North Carolina. More than 15,000 homes and other buildings were destroyed, pegging property losses at $136 million. Hazel became a new point of reference for North Carolinians and created a high water mark for misery. But as in all catastrophes, heroes emerged from the rubble, and dramatic rescues pumped a sense of hope into the Carolina psyche. A year later, three more hurricanes – Connie, Diane and Ione – pounded the state but did not hold a candle to Hazel.
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