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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Remembering Hugo

Posted September 21, 2009 11:36 a.m. EDT

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.