Weather News

Inland areas not spared. High winds caused most of the damage

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 originally appeared in The State newspaper Sept. 23, 1989.

South Carolina’s coastal counties bore the brunt of Hugo’s fury Friday morning, but inland counties felt the storm’s force as strong winds and scattered twisters claimed at least three lives.

A person in a mobile home was reported killed in York County, and a migrant worker was killed in Clarendon County, where the roof of the county courthouse was ripped off. A death also was reported in Lee County.

A tornado was reported at Lake Robinson, four miles north of Hartsville.

And in Florence, high winds peeled the roofs from the five two-story complexes at the Travelers Inn, scattering debris on the tops of guests’ cars. The Comfort Inn next door, and guests’ cars there, also were damaged. Only one person was reported to have sustained minor injuries from flying glass.

In addition, electricity was out in much of Florence.

Surfside Beach resident Paul Gayes stayed Thursday night at the Travelers Inn. He said Friday that he had been unable to sleep; suddenly, he heard people screaming. He went into the bathroom for safety, only to hear someone banging on the door and yelling to him to go to the lobby.

“We didn’t want to drive to Columbia,” he said. “So we stayed here -- and got clobbered.”

The 144-room motel at Interstate 95 and S.C. 52 was filled with South Carolinians who had fled the coast -- to safety, they thought.

“This almost looks like a war zone,” George Dorn of Myrtle Beach said as he watched carpenters clean up the debris from the parking lot.

Above him, lampshades sat on the motel’s second story, apparently sucked up when the roof flew off.

“It took the roofs off of the buildings, one at a time. And it took the whole roofs; they didn’t come off in pieces,” Travelers Inn manager Bill Reed said.

Along Interstate 20 from Columbia to Florence, dozens of pine trees along the roadside were snapped in two. The tangy smell of freshly cut wood hung in the air.

Road signs were bent over backwards, and a few tin-roofed barns along the way were destroyed.

Damage reports from various counties were accumulating slowly by midafternoon Friday, officials at the state Emergency Operations Center in Columbia said.

“It’s a situation where they’ve got some areas, especially down along the coast, that they’re just getting to,” Thom Berry, a state government spokesman said.

The counties that responded reported felled trees, ravaged roofs, overturned trailers, power outages and dwindling water supplies. Heavy damage occurred in York, Marion, Marlboro, Darlington and Lee counties. Damage estimates weren’t available Friday.

Spartanburg, Allendale, Dillon, Barnwell and Aiken counties reported no major problems and were back to normal early Friday, according to EOC reports.

“We had minor damage in Dillon County, no serious injuries. Everything is A-OK,” said Dillon County Disaster Preparedness Director Paul McKenzie.

Marion County residents were without power, and the water supply, which uses an electrical pump, was cut off in many areas. Trees were uprooted, roofs were torn away and trailers were damaged.

“We have had a right good bit of damage. We’ve got damage scattered all throughout the county,” said Linda Grice, director of Marion County Emergency Preparedness.

Marlboro County also suffered extensive damage, said Claude Driggers, the county’s supervisor. Power lines were down, but there were no reported deaths or injuries.

“I’ve got eight crews out in just the county’s portions trying to open all these roads. The state’s doing the same, and the city’s doing the same,” Driggers said.

At one point in the early morning hours, emergency preparedness personnel reported that every road in Kershaw County was blocked. Also, the roof of a gym that was being used as a shelter collapsed minutes after the 160 people in it had been evacuated.

Emergency services were immobilized during the early part of the storm as power went out in the entire county.

Kingstree and most of Williamsburg County was without electricity, phones or water. Generators were scheduled to begin restoring water pressure Friday afternoon.

Numerous trees were down and trailers were damaged in Bamberg County, where about 85 percent of the residents were without power. Calhoun County also reported widespread power outages.

Buildings in downtown Darlington were damaged, and access to the city was cut off on two sides.