WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Remembering Hazel: Storm made landfall 60 years ago

Posted October 15, 2014 4:15 a.m. EDT
Updated October 15, 2014 6:51 a.m. EDT

If you ask a North Carolina resident to name the hurricane they remember most, the answer likely depends on when they were born.

For residents under 60, Hugo, Fran or Floyd will likely be their answer.

But for the state's older residents, Hurricane Hazel, which made landfall 60 years ago Wednesday, is the storm of record.

The storm was the strongest on record to hit the North Carolina coast, and many of its records still stand today.

"Winds peaked at levels most of the state has never seen otherwise, and so did the run-up of water levels at the coast, which have never been matched," WRAL meteorologist Mike Moss said.

The catastrophic storm formed in early October 1954, and when it made landfall near the North Carolina-South Carolina border, it packed 150 mph winds. The storm, which earned the nickname "The Bulldozer," still had hurricane-strength winds when it roared through Raleigh.

Hazel killed 19 people and injured more than 200 in North Carolina, and it destroyed more than 15,000 homes and businesses in the state.

Property losses totaled $136 million. A similar storm today would result in staggering losses, Moss said.

"In the years since Hazel, we've added a lot of population, more buildings, more roads," he said. "A similar passage of a fast-moving Category 4 storm today would impact that many more structures and impact the lives of many more people. Hopefully, the added impacts could be mitigated somewhat by our ability to better anticipate the path and speed of the system."