Weather News

Hugo’s damage to Midlands amounts to millions

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.

Hurricane Hugo took its toll on counties miles from the coast, but officials said it could have been worse.

The storm reportedly killed one person in Richland County and caused millions of dollars in damage in several inland counties, overturning mobile homes, tearing down power lines and ripping up trees as it moved northwest across the state.

Terry Capers, 30, of 116 Henry St., was killed when a tree landed on top of his car at 3:30 a.m. on Sandhill Road, Coroner Frank Barron said.

“It was a tragic death and I have lost a good friend . . . and more than that he was like a little brother to me,” Nathaniel Roberson said. “He was a part of this community and will be missed.”

Midlands hospital officials said less than 20 people had been treated for storm-related injuries by Friday morning. But by midafternoon, their emergency rooms were filled with people who suffered minor injuries trying to clean up debris.

“Mostly we’re seeing chain-saw lacerations and other injuries related to tree removal,” said Cynthia Thompson, spokeswoman for Richland Memorial Hospital.

Officials in Richland, Lexington and Newberry counties said crews were out most of the night clearing roads of fallen trees and power lines. Each said property damage seemed to be minimal, considering that winds were clocked at up to 99 mph, the National Weather Service said.

In Richland County, the Emergency Preparedness Office estimated property damage would be around $5 million, “in the same ballpark as the June storm,” office Director Robert D. Martin said.

The Lower Richland area, including Eastover and Gadsden, was the hardest hit, he said.

“Out along the Leesburg Road area was where the majority of damage was done. We had reports that two tornadoes touched down out there,” he said.

Two Gadsden firefighters escaped injury when their fire truck was destroyed during a call, firefighter Carroll Alford said.

“All of the sudden, a great big old pine tree fell on the cab and smashed it,” he said. “The windshield fell out, but the two boys weren’t injured.”

In Columbia, another fire engine’s windshield was knocked out by a falling power line and an assistant fire chief’s car was damaged after a tree hit the front end, Columbia Fire Chief Harvey Evans said.

The storm also flattened “The Bubble,” the indoor athletic facility at the University of South Carolina. The Bubble covered indoor tennis courts and was used by other university athletic teams for practice.

Also, dozens of cars were reported damaged by falling trees and power lines at the Columbia Police Department and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

In Lexington County, the hardest-hit areas were St. Andrews and parts of Irmo, where several trees crashed into homes. West Columbia and Lake Murray also reported some damage, Rick Dolan, the county’s deputy assessor, said. “However, we have not done estimates yet, especially since the damage here seems to be fairly minimal,” he said.

In Kershaw County, no damage estimate was available, but emergency preparedness personnel reported that most roads in Kershaw County were blocked early Friday morning.

Also, the roof of a gym that was being used as a shelter collapsed only minutes after the 160 people in it had been evacuated.

In Newberry and Calhoun counties, officials said power outages and blocked roads were the biggest problem.

“The damage is minimal,” Newberry County Administrator Ed Lominack said Friday. “We haven’t placed a dollar figure on it yet, but our biggest problem is cable and electric lines being down.”

S.C. Electric & Gas Co. President T. C. Nichols said the total extent of damage to power lines and circuits had not been assessed, but “damages are in the millions of dollars.”

Staff writers Warren Bolton and Loretta Neal contributed to this report.