Focal Point Documentary: Hurricane Hazel

Posted September 8, 2004 5:53 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:03 p.m. EDT

On October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel delivered a devastating blow to North Carolina. It was the only category 4 hurricane to hit the state in the 20th century, and by most measures, was the worst.

Hazel carved a broad path of destruction from the Caribbean to Canada, becoming one of the deadliest and costliest storms in the history of our state and nation.

Hazel hit the North Carolina coast on a high lunar tide with winds up to 140 mph. It created an 18-foot storm surge on the state's southeastern beaches. The combination of wind, storm surge and flooding proved deadly, killing 19 people and injuring 200 more. The damage to property by today's standards would be nearly $10 billion.

Veteran WRAL News anchor Charlie Gaddy revisits that infamous day with those who survived the storm and those who keep a watchful eye on the skies today.

Watch the Documentary

Focal Point: Hazel (Click to view entire program)

Online Extras

Learn more about the destructive storm through a radio broadcast, home movies and photos:

WPTF Radio Broadcast

WPTF Radio Broadcast
Listen as WPTF radio announcer Carl Goerch delivers one of the first reports of Hazel's aftermath on Oct. 16, 1954. He flew along the coast in a DC-3 to view the damage along Long Beach and Wrightsville Beach.

Hazel Home Movie

Hazel Home Movie:
The Polvino family shares their home movies of Hazel's aftermath near Topsail Island. (No audio)

Hazel 4

What If?
What would happen if a Category 4 hurricane, like Hazel, tracked further east across the Pamlico Sound, similar to the path taken by Hurricane Isabel in 2003? Coastal geologist Stan Riggs offers perspective.