Hurricane Hugo and Carolina Football

Kathy Hawkins, Columbia

July 31, 2009 

My husband, David, and I are from Rock Hill. He was in the Air Force and assigned to the Pentagon when Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina.

Our son, Brian, was playing football for Carolina at the time. Brain called us at about 6:30 p.m. on the Friday night when Hugo was setting his sites for Charleston. It was Parents’ Weekend and he wanted to know if we were coming down for the game on Saturday. I said, the hurricane looked as if it would hit South Carolina and the game may be postponed or cancelled. Brian said it shouldn’t come up to Columbia and to come on. So we packed the car and hit the road from DC at 7:30pm. Our plan was to drive straight through to my mother’s house in Rock Hill.

We drove through the night listening to the radio for information on the storm. The reports did not sound good. We stopped in North Carolina for gas and having SC car tags, were asked if we were leaving South Carolina because of the hurricane. We said no, we were on the way to South Carolina. They said you two are crazy.

As we were coming into Charlotte on I-85 at about 1:30 in the morning Hugo was there to greet us. Eerie lime green bursts of light were dancing all over the sky in the low-hanging storm clouds. We thought it was lighting but later found out it was electrical transformers blowing up. The wind was so intense, nothing like I’d seen or ever felt before. You could feel its force as it hit the car seemingly from all sides. Tree limbs and debris were lying in the road and flying through the air.

We arrived at my mother’s house at 2:30 am. The house was shaking from the foundation to the roof. The walls were actually moving in and out like someone deep breathing. Windows were rattling.Electrical power was lost. It was so dark and very scary.

Thank God we made the long trip and made it through the night safely with everything still standing on that Saturday morning. David went out and took pictures of huge oaks that were uprooted around town and especially on the campus at Winthrop University. It looked surreal.

We made it to Williams-Brice on Saturday night and the game was played as scheduled just as though a hurricane hadn’t passed.

This hurricane was devastating. I hope and pray we never have to experience a storm the likes of Hugo ever again.

-- Kathy Hawkins, Columbia

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