Hurricane Hugo

Hurricane Hugo

The term “hurricane” is a West Indian word meaning “big wind”. Between 1900 and 2004, fifteen hurricanes have hit South Carolina. Hurricane Hugo made landfall Friday, September 21st, 1989.

Hurricane Hugo was a Cape Verde storm in the North Atlantic Ocean that intensified dramatically. By mid-September it was already classified a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. As it turned toward the northwest, the eye wall scraped the northeastern tip of Puerto Rico. There was substantial damage in the US Virgin Islands. St. Croix was leveled.

The storm was then downgraded to a Category 2. By Wednesday, it was apparent that Hugo was heading for the South Carolina coast. The hurricane intensified rapidly on Thursday.


Hurricane Hugo made landfall northeast of Charleston near midnight on Friday, September 21st. When it hit South Carolina, it was a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds in excess of 135 mph. The storm surge was estimated at over 20 feet at Bull’s Bay.


Hugo then moved inland at nearly 30 mph. Hurricane force winds were reported as far inland as York County. Tree and power lines damaged by hurricane force wind gusts were reported as far inland as Charlotte. As the storm lost power, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania felt the remnants of Hugo.


Eighty-two death are associated with Hurricane Hugo, twenty-seven in South Carolina. Damage to the U.S. was estimated at over $7 billion. Thousands of acres were destroyed in the Sumter National and the Francis Marion forests. The Folly Beach, Sullivans Island, Isle of Palms, and McClellanville communities were heavily damaged.




a-clean up

Since Hugo, the coastal population of South Carolina has increased by nearly 150,000 citizens (2006 figure).

Storm surges are the leading potential killer in tropical cyclones along the coast. Inland flooding from the rain is the most underrated killer with the most observed casualties.

Hurricane Hugo: Storm of the Century / Macchio, William

The South Carolina Encyclopedia / Walter Edgar (ed.)