Weather News

Coastal SC gears up for Hugo

Hurricane Hugo appears to follow the same path as hurricanes David and Gracie, although whether it will hit the U.S. mainland is still unknown.
Hurricane Hugo appears to follow the same path as hurricanes David and Gracie, although whether it will hit the U.S. mainland is still unknown. National Weather Service

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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This story first appeared in The State on September 20, 1989.

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.”

Most vulnerable to hurricane damage are the outer islands including Edisto Island and Hilton Head Island, which could face severe flooding from high tides, said Tom Beckham, deputy director of the Emergency Preparedness Division of the adjutant general’s office.

Also at risk are highly developed beachfront sites around Myrtle Beach and Garden City, Beckham said.

”Anywhere on the northern South Carolina coast where they have everything built right on the shoreline would be zapped and zapped hard,” he said. “There is all kind of building on the water, and it doesn’t take but a small storm to do damage.”

The agency has been in regular contact with Gov. Carroll Campbell’s office and local disaster agencies to coordinate plans should Hugo strike. S.C. National Guard troops are on call and could be sent to the coast six to eight hours after a storm hits, he said.

Any evacuations of coastal zones will benefit from the end of tourist season, said Edward H. Carraway, civil defense director for Georgetown County.

”At this stage, we’ve lost a third of our population,” Carraway said.

At the Charleston Naval Facilities, all seaworthy ships and submarines have been ordered to leave port for the open Atlantic beginning Wednesday morning, said naval spokeswoman Petty Office Traci Lytle.

In addition, ships in dry dock or undergoing repairs will be moved to more secure docks, Ms. Lytle said.

”We’re basically looking out for the ships that could sustain damage even in non-hurricane weather by for example hitting the side of a pier,” she said. “Other than that we’re doing the normal things you would do if you lived in a home.”

Pilots at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort are on standby to evacuate their craft, said Gunnery Sgt. Doug Weatherman. F-18 fighters would be flown to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio while C-12 transports would go to the Naval Air Station in Memphis, Tenn., he said.

Some farmers are working now to head off potential crop damage from Hugo. Williamsburg County Agent John Boswell said farmers have been running combines at night in an attempt to harvest as much of their corn as possible.

This season’s corn harvest has been estimated at a record 90 bushels per acre statewide and growers are taking no chances in the threat of heavy rains and winds from Hugo, Boswell said.

”We really don’t need Hugo to come by, and while we don’t wish anybody else any bad luck, we’d like to see him go somewhere else,” he said.

Hugo also could hurt cotton and soybeans, Boswell said. ‘‘About 20 percent of our cotton in this area is open. Additional humidity and rain would really cut into the yields.”

Most of this season’s $115 million tobacco crop has already been harvested and in many places growers have begun to plow under crop residue. Power outages that are likely to accompany Hugo’s landfall could hurt some growers if they have leaf curing in their barns.

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.”

However, last-minute property insurance shoppers can expect frustration.

”I have to tell them that no companies are writing property insurance with Hugo out there,” said Nick Hunt, an agent with People’s Insurance in Beaufort. “We can write flood insurance, but they seem to lose interest when they find out there is a five day waiting period.”

Bill Huges contributed to this story.