September 20, 2020

25th Anniversary: Hurricane Hugo left path of destruction in US, Caribbean


Pin It

650x366_09190546_hugofinalBy Mark Leberfinger, Staff Writer

made landfall 25 years ago, leaving a path of death and destruction from the to the southern and eastern United States.

Hugo was responsible for 49 deaths in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

At the time, it was ranked as the costliest hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland, with damages totaling $7 billion (1989 /$13.43 billion 2014 ), until Andrew in 1992.

Hugo made landfall over Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, about midnight EDT on September 22, 1989. Hugo was a Category 4 hurricane at landfall with winds of about 140 mph.

The hurricane also had an impact on two future meteorologists who lived in the South at the time.

‘I’m scared now’

650x366_09190552_fa2ad289f“Hurricane Hugo solidified my career path in meteorology,” Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell said, “Like many meteorologists, I had been interested in weather since I could talk. My house being struck by lightning in 1987, and Hurricane Hugo in 1989, were two major events that deeply stirred my weather curiosity.”

Ferrell, who was 15 years old at the time, lived in Boomer, North Carolina, in the .

“At the time, it was the most dangerous weather-related situation I had ever been in,” he said, “I thought it was super fun until we were cowering in the basement, the ground shaking as trees fell, wondering if we might emerge back upstairs to see our house destroyed.”

Trees fell on Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell’s teenage home in Boomer, North Carolina, after Hurricane Hugo devastated the northern foothills of North Carolina on September 22, 1989. (Photo/Courtesy of Jesse Ferrell)

640x505_09190557_ffcc5149c“For the first time in my life, I thought ‘OK, this is enough severe weather. I’m scared now.’ I think whenever I find myself in a severe weather situation now that could be that dangerous, I do kind of ‘flash back’ to that moment.”

Ferrell said that at a time when people weren’t as accustomed to air conditioning and electronic communication, it wasn’t that bad being without power for ten days, or at least he remembers.

“Anything outside of the normal routine is always fun when you’re a kid; it probably wasn’t that much fun for my parents, who were running the generator and cutting the trees that fell. I lost power overnight a few years ago; it was torture,” he said.

‘We won’t have to worry about hurricanes anymore’ Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski was seven years old and starting classes at a new school when Hugo hit Charlotte, North Carolina.

“All the food in the fridge went bad and we had no generator, so dinner was cooking cans of soup on a charcoal grill,” Pydynowski said, “I remember waiting for hours in a car at gas stations for gas and ice, driving around the city trying to find some of either.” Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell’s family home on Long Beach/Oak Island, North Carolina, was damaged from storm surge from Hurricane Hugo, which hit 150 miles to the south. Photo was taken by Frank Ferrell. (Photo/Courtesy of Jesse Ferrell)

Pydynowski also recalled that bees and yellow jackets were everywhere after the storm because of fallen trees downing their hives.

The wind and the noise from the hurricane was incredible, with breaking and falling trees that sounded like bombs going off, he said.

“Except with Hugo, you not only had those noises but also the howling of the wind,” he said. “We mainly stayed inside although the center/eye passed close enough by that there was a lull in the wind. My Dad and I went outside for a bit because, of course, I wanted to go out in the ‘eye of the storm’ since I was already a ‘weather geek.'”

Pydynowski was excited about the prospect of seeing snow as his family moved from Florida to North Carolina. Hurricanes weren’t a thought.

“Before we moved, I remember my Dad saying, ‘Well, at least we won’t have to worry about hurricanes anymore.’ He could not have been more wrong. We were hit harder by Hugo than we ever had living in Tampa/St. Petersburg since I had been born in 1982; so I always thought that was all very ironic.”

A second irony occurred after the storm went through Charlotte. The new hometown NBA franchise, the Charlotte Hornets, decided to keep the name for its mascot: Hugo the Hornet.

For more on this story go to:


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About ieyenews

Speak Your Mind