Weather News

#Hugo30: Live updates from the storm of ’89

Hurricane Hugo rearranged cars in front of Lincoln High School, which was used as an evacuation shelter. The school flooded, nearly killing many.
Journalists didn’t have iPhones, drones or Twitter accounts when Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina in 1989. But what if they had? Relive Hugo’s arrival in real time as we retell the story of ’89 with the tools of 2019.

September 22, 1989

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Trees down in front of the South Carolina State House after Hurricane Hugo swept through the state. The State file photo
  • Power out, roads blocked as Midlands begins cleanup

    Savage winds strewed debris across the Midlands early Friday, leaving 135,000 homes without power and some with no telephone link to the outside world after Hurricane Hugo swept through.

    The worst damage was in Eastover, where one man was crushed by a fallen tree, and uprooted trees pulled water lines out of the ground, leaving the town without water.

    Hugo left in his wake fallen trees and wind damage throughout the Columbia area. Power lines were down, street lights were out, and some roads were impassable.
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Hurricane Hugo devastated the South Carolina coastline and inland communities on September 21st and 22nd 1989. A television sits quietly on a sandbar on the Intracoastal Waterway. Tim Dominick =
  • Officials not sure how long power will be off

    S.C. Electric & Gas Co. spokesman Robin Montgomery said three-quarters of the company’s 430,000 customers -- including 115,000 in Richland and Lexington counties and everyone east of Interstate 95 -- were without power after Hugo slammed through the state. He said it could take two or three days just to assess the damage from what was clearly the worst hit the company has ever taken.

    ”We are expecting a long period of time, and we do know that’s inconvenient, but this was truly a disaster, and it’s something that we have to deal with one day at a time,” Montgomery said. “In some cases, it’s like starting from scratch.”
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On September 22, 1989 Hurricane Hugo made landfall near Sullivan’s Island as a Category 4 storm. The State
  • Storm hits SC coast at high tide

    Hurricane Hugo, gaining in fury and speed as it slammed into South Carolina overnight, sent thousands of coastal residents fleeing from its 135 mph winds and a huge, wind-shipped storm tide of more than 20 feet that swamped shore dwellings.

September 21, 1989

The impending arrival of Hurricane Hugo led to impromptu “hurricane parties” at bars, restaurants and inside homes across Columbia, SC. File photo
  • Partygoers in Columbia refuse to face Hugo dry

    ”We’ve had a lot of people coming in wanting to know if we have a Hurricane mix,” Jack Pruett, manager of Green’s liquor store, said. “If anybody out there has one, he can make a fortune,” he said, adding there’s a patent on the original Hurricane drink.

    Yesterday’s restaurant and pub in Five Points and B.L. Rooster’s on Bluff Road had their own versions of the cocktail: both included rum and fruit juice.

    Those drinks and other spirits kept bars and restaurants busy stocking up for larger-than unusual crowds. Video stores, liquor stores and party shops also were enjoying a boost in rentals and sales.

    “We always have storm parties at Yesterday’s,” Virginia Funk, manager of the Five Points bar, said. “This just seems to be the place everybody comes when it gets wet” and the lights go out.
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Hugo approaching South Carolina, September 21, 1989.
  • Midlands may see storm eye

    Winds up to 80 mph are expected to whip Columbia today as Hurricane Hugo does his worst, and the eye of the storm was expected to pass directly over the capital city.

    The worst winds were expected before and after the calm eye of the storm.

    Hugo at his least severe is expected to mean sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph, which should last most of today, the National Weather Service said.

    Meteorologists said late Thursday the storm was headed straight for Columbia after hitting shore at Charleston.
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A group of 16 guests gathered at the McClellanville home of Myrthis and Gerald Thibodeau after Hugo destroyed their homes. File Photo
  • Life’s drama unfolds in face of Hurricane Hugo

    Finding shelter wasn’t easy for Louise Skolfield, who lives about a block and a half from the threatening ocean at North Myrtle Beach. It took Ms. Skolfield more than four hours to drive from her home to a shelter in Conway, 25 miles away.

    “I did take a few pictures before I left so I’d have something to remember my home by if it’s not there when I get back.”

Interstate 26 in Orangeburg County in September 1989. The State
  • People fleeing Hugo find inns filled

    South Carolina hotels and motels were flooded with evacuees forced to leave their homes in anticipation of the destructive force of Hurricane Hugo as it marched toward South Carolina’s idyllic coast.

    By midafternoon Thursday, hotels near interstates were booked.

    ”We’re full, and we have people coming off the highways constantly. It’s a madhouse,” sales director Lisa Rosenblum of the Days Inn near Columbia Metropolitan Airport said at 11 a.m. “I’ve had at least 100 phone calls in the last hour from people asking us if we had any rooms left.”
Sept. 1989 prep football
Irmo’s Jefferson Bates struggles to escape Spring Valley defender. Joe Jackson Joe Jackson/The State
  • Hugo deals prep football a blow

    With the threat of poor weather conditions resulting from Hurricane Hugo, several South Carolina High schools have moved this week’s football games to tonight, and several games have been postponed until Monday.

    A number of other schools in the Lowcountry and beach areas are expected to review their situations today and may postpone their Friday night games.

September 20, 1989

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South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell in a meeting at the State House on September 20, 1989 to begin preparations for a possible Hurricane Hugo landfall. Ginger Pinson

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The State
  • Coast anticipates storm’s onslaught

    As Hurricane Hugo whirled toward a South Carolina coast that’s convinced he’s no lightweight, folks from Myrtle Beach to Hilton Head Island hustled to prepare for the worst.

    Batteries, tape, plywood — recommended accessories for those within hurricane striking distance — were difficult to find Wednesday in many coastal areas.

    “When it comes right down to it, in a situation like this, there isn’t any real good place to be,” said Bill Finch, dock master of the Wild Dunes Yacht Harbor near Charleston.

    In North Carolina, coastal residents kept a wary eye on the storm.
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Hurricane Hugo continues to move towards to the SC coast. National Weather Service National Weather Service
  • Hugo could spawn tornadoes, gales, heavy rain in Midlands

    Tornadoes, flooding and hail may be Hurricane Hugo’s greeting card to the Midlands if it slams into the South Carolina coast Friday.

    “Taking the worst-case scenario, we could have gusts of wind up to 50 to 60 mph for two to three hours and probably at least 6 inches of rainfall,” Milt Brown, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said Wednesday.
Hurricane Hugo appears to follow the same path as hurricanes David and Gracie as of September 19, 1989, although whether it will hit the U.S. mainland is still unknown. National Weather Service
  • Coastal SC gears up for Hugo

    Disaster relief agencies along the South Carolina coast spent Tuesday gearing up for Hurricane Hugo and fielding calls from antsy residents eager to know the storm’s path.

    “We’re seeing a lot of concern. We’re getting a lot of phone calls from people asking about the hurricane,” said Cathy Haynes, deputy director of civil defense for Charleston County. “The possibility of us getting some sort of effect from it is getting greater.

    “Some coastal supermarkets were swamped Tuesday night as residents stocked up in case Hugo hits.

    “You should see it right now, it is really busy and we’re really backed up” said Lynnett Goerman, office manager for a Myrtle Beach Food Lion. “I haven’t seen too many people buying flashlights, most are buying a lot of beer and wine.”

September 19, 1989

Hurricane Hugo appears to follow the same path as hurricanes David and Gracie as of September 19, 1989, although whether it will hit the U.S. mainland is still unknown. National Weather Service
  • Hugo’s aftermath hurricane follows beaten path, effect on SC uncertain

    Hurricane Hugo, potentially the worst storm to affect the Southeast in a decade, is on a track well-worn by other hurricanes that have hit South Carolina, although no one knows yet where it is headed.

    “Hurricanes respond to pressure changes aloft,” he said, “and at the present, Hugo will continue on its northwest course. But there appears to be a good possibility of a blocking action which will make its path uncertain after Wednesday. That’s the problem. When they get blocked, then you don’t know where they will go.”

    As if it weren’t difficult enough to forecast Hugo’s path, there is the additional complication of Tropical Storm Iris, which is trailing Hugo in lock-step about 650 miles to the east.

    “The forecast puts Hugo a couple of hundred miles east of Cape Canaveral at 8 a.m. on Friday,” Sidlow said. “But that forecast is for guidance purposes only and could be off by several hundred miles. Currently, we are not sure if South Carolina will be affected.”

September 18, 1989

Glenn Baxter, manager of the International Amateur Radio Network, answers the phone while manning his ham radio from a small building nest to his home in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, Sept. 20, 1989. With 2,000 members in 45 countries, Baxters network helps disaster victims obtain emergency aid and contact worried relatives. Similar ham radio operators helped victims of Hurricane Hugo in the Caribbean earlier this month. (AP Photo/Herb Swanson) Herb Swanson AP
  • Ham radio operators play vital role in crises

    Ham radio operators in the hard-hit Caribbean have been busy serving as the only link between the battered islands and a worried mainland.

    Walter Ockoskis of Columbia is one of many ham radio operators who have helped out in the last few days. On Monday, he was able to help a woman who was isolated on St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, get in touch with her father in Massachusetts.

    Ockoskis patched his radio through the telephone, and the woman was able to talk to her father directly.

    The role of radio operators in South Carolina would become even more important if Hugo hits the state’s coast, operators say.

Wrecked and devastated homes of the Ocean Park Section of San Juan, September 18, 1989, from Hurricane Hugo. ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Hugo slams Puerto Rico, Southeast in danger unless storm stalls

    Hugo’s 125 mph winds slammed into the eastern tip of Puerto Rico and skirted the northern coast before roaring to the west-northwest toward the edge of the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

    If Hugo moves along as quickly as it has so far, meteorologists say, it should approach the U.S. coast just in time to catch a ride on a huge current of air that will probably guide it to a landfall somewhere between northern Florida and southern North Carolina.

Damaged homes on the east coast of Guadeloupe, after Hurricane Hugo hit the area. Hugo reportedly killed five and left at least 10,000 homeless on the Caribbean island. (AP Photo) ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Hugo takes aim at Puerto Rico

    Hurricane Hugo smashed into the U.S. Virgin Islands and was on a collision course with Puerto Rico late Sunday after ripping through the Caribbean with 140 mph winds and leaving at least six people dead.

    The islands of Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Martinique, St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. Francois were particularly affected.

    The major of the village of St. Francois, Ernest Moutoussamy, said on Radio Caribe Internationale that “There’s nothing left of St. Francois.”

September 17, 1989

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With 140 mph winds, Hurricane Hugo crossed Guadeloupe around 1 a.m. on September 17, 1989. National Weather Service
  • Caribbean islands cautious of Hugo

    The National Weather Service in Miami issues hurricane warnings Saturday for the U.S. Virgin Islands and for Puerto Rico, which previously had been on a hurricane watch. The warnings were posted from Martinique northward and westward through Puerto Rico, including the British Virgin Islands and St. Martin and surrounding islands.

September 16, 1989

September 15, 1989

September 14, 1989

September 11, 1989

  • The eighth tropical storm of the season has formed off coast of West Africa. Its name: Hugo. Forecasters are watching closely.


How we did this story

Using archival records and documents, we’ve reconstructed a timeline of Hurricane Hugo’s approach, landfall and path through the interior of South Carolina.

1989 was still an era of “slow news.” Oftentimes, stories did not appear in the newspaper until days after an event. We’ve used our best editorial judgment to deconstruct those stories and re-report them in the order in which we would for readers of today’s 24-hour news cycle.

When specific time stamps for events were not available, we made as close an approximation as possible.

For this report, we consulted records from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, The National Weather Service, an Emergency Management Review Panel from the South Carolina governor’s office, The South Carolina Department of Archives and History, and The State’s archived articles.