Hurricane Hugo

August 4, 2009

Father, son remember Hugo

HUGO THEN AND NOW: Each Tuesday, find out what happened to people whose lives were changed by Hurricane Hugo 20 years ago. This is the first in a series. Click here for The State's commemorative Web section marking the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo: archival photos and videos, your stories and photos, and more.

Dr. Vic Weinstein was the chief of obstetrics at Roper Hospital and was living in downtown Charleston in September 1989. On Hugo’s arrival day, he brought his family with him to the hospital, including his 1-, 3- and 7-year-old children, to ride out the storm.

Hugo hit Charleston that night.

“The place was shaking. In the ER, the doors were blowing in, we had to use chains to keep them closed. It was a mess. Then the eye came and it was absolutely dead. It was so cool. We all went outside and it was just dead.

“As the backside of the storm approached, we could look down Courtenay (Drive) and watch the water come up. I said, ‘Oh my God, here comes the flood.’ The water rushed in, the wind started up, and we closed the doors. ...Then we took care of patients in the hospital.

“...The day after, I took the van — with the broken windows — and drove it as close (to the house) as we could get. ... Jeff (his 3-year-old son) went with me to see what was going on with our house. I carried him through about two feet of water and we went in the house.”

Their dog, a golden retriever named Chowder, had survived the ordeal on the second floor of the home where they had left a bathtub full of water and a large bag of dog food. Chowder was dry, but had already eaten most of the food. The first floor of the house took about 1½-feet of water and a couple of inches of mud, but the second story escaped harm.

“We moved back in and lived upstairs. We had a generator and the gas was still working so we had a stovetop that worked. We didn’t get electricity for a while.”

He moved to a home in West Ashley in 1992. Jeff, now 23, is a cook at High Cotton restaurant in Charleston. And they still have hurricane memories.

“I hope they’re only memories. Once was enough.”

Story by Megan Sexton. Video below by Tim Dominick

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