Hurricane Hugo

Surfside Beach after Hugo

The State

More from the series

Hurricane Hugo coverage from The State: Sept. 17 - Sept. 24, 1989

Read more stories from The State’s original reporting of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. From Hugo’s collision with the Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico to its catastrophic landfall near Charleston, The State kept readers up-to-date with vital news about the event that turned into the worst storm South Carolina has ever seen.

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Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in The State newspaper Sept. 23, 1989

Friday seemed like any other beautiful day in late September during a drive along U.S. 17 toward Surfside Beach.

Blue skies, dotted with an occasional white puff, a warm humid land breeze, unusually quiet side streets, absent of summer traffic.

The atmosphere belied the destruction several hundred yards to the east, where Hurricane Hugo left virtually every oceanfront property destroyed or severely damaged.

The first signs became apparent after looking down the narrow side streets leading toward the ocean; most of the streets were blocked by armed National Guardsmen standing next to all-terrain vehicles.

Hugo’s destruction became evident along the pine- and oak-canopied streets that lead to the beach.

Downed trees and power lines filled the streets, as did an unbelievable collection of junk and debris that were once refrigerators, air conditioners, toilets, plumbing, chairs and tables.

On some streets, the ocean had carried debris three and four blocks inland.

Ocean Boulevard was a highway of mud, six, eight, maybe 10 inches deep in some places for miles and miles of coastline. The boulevard was, in fact, the new Atlantic coastline; the beach had moved inland two blocks.

And the town’s best-known landmark, the Surfside Fishing Pier, was gone.

Bill Hill, who owned a 14-unit motel at 9th Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, snuck past roadblocks to find his home destroyed.

“It’ll have to be bulldozed down,” Hill said.

About 40 feet of Hill’s motel facing the ocean had been ripped away, leaving exposed a pristine white tile bathroom, a stove and a refrigerator.

Next door, at Surfside By The Sea II, a 12-by-30-foot oceanfront swimming pool was filled with sand. Pavement that surrounded it had broken into man- sized chunks that resembled giant playing cards scattered everywhere.

Sea Villas II, also on the ocean in Surfside, was eroded away and its pool left high and dry.

Across the street, two quadraplex clapboard apartment buildings appeared to have escaped undamaged.

Five blocks down the street from Hill’s motel sat an oceanfront cottage that was now nearly a block farther back. It was sitting in the middle of Ocean Boulevard, surrounded by boards, sewage, cement blocks, bricks and glass.