Hurricane Hugo 25th Anniversary

Fishing boats in McClellanville pushed ashore by hurricane Hugo. (Wade Spees /staff 9/27/89 )

Certain names in South Carolina cannot be said without fear flooding back.




Along with unnamed hurricanes that are known only by their date, certain storms remain seared into South Carolina's collective memory.

Some South Carolina storms are too old to be remembered, but are too important to be forgotten.

As yet another system swirls and looms off South Carolina's coast, here is a look back at the storms that have come before it and the resilience of the state that withstood it.

The Hurricane of 1893

Hurricane of 1893 a deadly reminder Storm struck S.C. island communities with a vengeance on this day Tropics getting busy with Cape Verde storms after a quiet August for Lowcountry

The Battery in Charleston after the hurricane of 1893.

The date: August 27, 1893

The strength: Winds blew more than 120 mph. If historical accounts are accurate, the storm today would have been a Category 3 hurricane.

The dead: An estimated 2,000 people died.

The devastation: The storm first made landfall near the South Carolina and Georgia border near Savannah. The unnamed hurricane would come to be called The Great Sea Island Storm. Records estimate upwards of 2,000 people died in the storm, and tens of thousands were left with nothing. However, the death toll could be even higher. Most of the people who lived on those islands were poor, black rice-field workers, and records were not kind to them.

The storm's strength was so great that a tidal wave that struck at high tide near Hilton Head consumed entire islands. (Hence, the storm's name.)

An archived account of the aftermath: “The citizens will awake this morning and gaze upon innumerable evidences of the hurricane which swept over the city yesterday afternoon, and last night. Uprooted trees, fallen roofs, broken fences and in the less substantial parts of the town wrecked sheds and shanties will be found everywhere.” — The Charleston News and Courier, August 28, 1893

“The people of Charleston have indeed learned the knack of never surrendering .... Here was a community of 65,000 people standing absolutely alone, apart from all the world, all the modern means of communication with the outside world cut off, the streets strewn with electric wires and telegraph poles, the telephone dumb, the magic ticker of the telegraph silent, many of them with wives, parents, sweethearts, friends, hundreds of miles away from their ruined homes, the awful destruction of millions of dollars of property staring them in the face.” — The Charleston News and Courier, August 29, 1893

Read more: 1893 hurricane devastated sea islands

The Georgia-South Carolina Hurricane

Hurricanes in Charleston

Hurricane. August, 1940.

The date: August 11, 1940

The strength: Winds blew at 105 mph. It is considered a Category 2 hurricane.

The dead: 34 people died.

The devastation: The unnamed storm, later called the Georgia-South Carolina Hurricane, made landfall near Beaufort, South Carolina. In less than 24 hours, Beaufort received an estimated 10.84 inches of rain. A reported 34 people died and, according to statements from the governor at the time, many of the people who died were black.

An archived account of the aftermath: “Gov. Burnet R. Maybank of South Carolina visited the Beaufort area, where the hurricane struck hardest, and reported distressing conditions. The governor said the Beaufort waterfront was swept away and every boat in the harbor sunk or crushed on the shore. The city had been without lights for two nights and power authorities said it might be a week or more before service was restored.”— The Charleston Evening Post, August 13, 1940

Hurricane Hazel

The date: October 15, 1954

The strength: Winds reached 106 mph at Myrtle Beach, and it was classified as a Category 4 hurricane.

The dead: One person died in South Carolina. All told, the storm killed more than 1,000 people.

The devastation: Hazel first made landfall near the South Carolina-North Carolina border. Oceanfront property north of Pawleys Island was destroyed. The storm surge reached a reported 18 feet.

In a period of 24 hours, approximately 8.8 inches of rain fell in Georgetown, South Carolina.

An archived account of the aftermath: “Some buildings stood, their seaward ends yawning unsupported over sodden sand. Others, their fronts torn away, showed, almost indecently, the ugly disarray of broken furniture and soaking rugs, curtains and bed linen.” — The Charleston News and Courier, October 16, 1954

“Describing the scene of devastation there as he rested at Myrtle Beach this afternoon, Mr. Mishoe said: 'When I saw three houses float off their foundations and drift away, I decided it was time to leave.'” — The Charleston News and Courier, October 16, 1954

Hurricane Gracie

State’s hurricane history changed as 1959’s Gracie now Cat 4 (copy)

Hurricane Gracie, that devastated South Carolina in 1959, was among the worst storms in the state's history. But the 1852 storm is considered to have been worse. File/Staff

The date: September 29, 1959

The strength: Winds gusted as high as 138 mph at the Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station. It would become reclassified as a Category 4 Hurricane in 2016.

The dead: 22 people died, 10 of those deaths were in South Carolina and Georgia.

The devastation: Hurricane Gracie made landfall at St. Helena Island, but nearly all of the Lowcountry felt Gracie's wrath. Homes were uprooted. The waterfront was left “in shambles,” according to news reports from The Charleston Evening Post. Heavy flooding was reported in Walterboro when 8.3 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour timespan.

On Sept. 30, the United States Coast Guard had to evacuate people stranded in both Charleston and Savannah. According to a Beaufort Gazette article published on the 30-year anniversary of the day Gracie struck the Lowcountry, the storm cost Beaufort and Jasper counties a combined $1.5 million in damages.

A preliminary report from the U.S. Weather Bureau in November 1959 called Hurricane Gracie, “the most intense tropical cyclone to cross the coast of the southeastern United States since Hurricane 'Hazel' in 1954.”

Earlier this year, Hurricane Gracie was upgraded to a Category 4 storm, making it the third Category 4 storm in the state's history.

An archived account of the aftermath: “The (Edisto Island) beach itself looks like a deserted island and the road to the island is virtually a jungle. Huge trees, branches and limbs lying across the highway the last 18 miles before reaching the beach has turned the road into a difficult, snaking, circuitous route, making passage almost impossible.” — The Charleston Evening Post, September 30, 1959

“Wind damage from Gracie was the worst from a hurricane in the history of Beaufort, South Carolina. Damage to power lines, trees and buildings were extensive.” — A preliminary report on Hurricane Gracie, from the U.S. Weather Bureau

Read more: State's hurricane history changed as 1959's Gracie now Cat 4

Hurricane Hugo

Charleston after Hurricane Hugo

Dick Davenport gets a hug from Martha Derrick as he shoveled out his King Street optical shop September, 1989. Wade Spees/Staff

The date: September 21, 1989

The strength: Winds blew at 138 mph, with gusts recorded at more than 160 mph. It was a Category 4 hurricane when it hit South Carolina.

The dead: 35 people died, including 13 people in South Carolina. Two people drowned in their South Carolina homes.

The devastation: Hugo became the most devastating storm in South Carolina history, costing 35 people their lives and the state more than $6 billion in damages. Hugo made landfall just North of Charleston, and closely followed the path of The Great Sea Island Storm nearly 100 years earlier. Winds gusted to a reported 109 mph at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina. A record-setting storm surge of 20 feet was reported.

The iconic Ben Sawyer Bridge was damaged so severely that pictures of it tilting into the waterway became an iconic image of the storm.

Grocery store bread shelves stood barren, and homes turned into piles of splintered wood almost overnight. Hugo left behind an estimated $13.5 billion of damage on the U.S. mainland.

An archived account of the aftermath: “At (Mayor Joe Riley's) feet, in front of the City Hall steps, lay a large section of the City Hall roof. Some roofs of buildings to the left and right were also in shambles.” — The Charleston News and Courier, September 22, 1989.

“It twisted the Ben Sawyer Bridge like a pretzel, leaving one end of the span sticking almost straight up in the air; sank at least five and maybe eight of the shrimp boats docked at Shem Creek; inflicted heavy damage on yachts and other boats at Toler's Cove; ripped the roof off Alhambra Hall in Old Town Mount Pleasant; smashed windows, damaged roofs, snapped large trees like toothpicks; and left most streets throughout Mount Pleasant impassable.” — The Evening Post, September 22, 1989

Read more: Storm that big today would be 'total devastation'

Hurricane Hugo 101

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Did you survive Hurricane Hugo? Do you remember evacuating before a big storm hit the Charleston area? Or did you ever ride out a big storm?

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Reach Caitlin Byrd at 937-5590 or follow her on Twitter at @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.