McClellanville man recalls Hugo's impact

August 18, 2009 

Left (file photo): In 1989, Ben Graham of McClellanville helps clean up the home of his cousin Mary Scott in the wake of Hurricane Hugo. Right (Tim Dominick/tdominick@thestate.com) Ben Graham stands in front of his cousin's McClellanville home in 2008.

  • About this series

    Each Tuesday leading up to the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo on Sept. 21, thestate.com will present a "Hugo: Then and Now" vignette featuring people included in coverage of Hugo in 1989, telling their stories about the storm 20 years later.

Ben Graham has lived in McClellanville all 63 years of his life. A shrimper, he was renovating old houses when Hugo hit in September 1989. He worked on plenty in the days after the storm, and is still doing that today.

“I stayed at my house. It’s close to the water, but you can’t see the water from it. My brother ... came to my house and stayed. We sat there and wondered how much harder the wind could blow.

“We were upstairs. We heard something banging on the front of the house. I thought it was somebody trying to get out of the storm. I went to the foot of the stairs and I saw there was a couple feet of water inside. From building houses and dealing with flood zones and FEMA, I knew how high the water must have been in other places. I opened the door. The thing banging against the house was a pickup truck that had floated over. I thought, ‘Oh hell.’

“I waded down to get in my garage to salvage some things. The water was hot — almost as hot as bath water — I remember that. It came up to the doorknobs downstairs. It was coming up an inch a minute, and then it started going down. I said, ‘Well, tomorrow there’s gonna be plenty to do,’ so I went to bed and slept till daylight.

“I got up, headed to my mother’s house by the boat landing. I had to crawl under and over trees. When I got in a little closer, I saw a horde of people walking. They looked like they were stunned and in shock. They were the people at Lincoln School (the shelter where hundreds had gone to ride out the storm — and where the water kept rising inside). They were asking ‘What’s left? What’s left?’ And all they could say was, ‘It was horrible; it was horrible.’ I was expecting to see bodies hanging in trees.

“Just this morning, my mother and I were talking, wondering if anybody would do anything to commemorate the 20th anniversary. Everybody still marks time that way, saying that was before or after the storm.”

By Megan Sexton / Video below by Tim Dominick

McClellanville: 20 years later

McClellanville residents Mary Scott and Ben Graham describe Hurricane Hugo and the aftermath.

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