Pee Dee resident looks back on Hugo clean-up

Lake City, SC - By Brandon Herring - bio | email

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Hurricane Hugo blew over lots of trees and tore roofs off buildings when it passed through the Pee Dee in 1989. The damage was widespread because Hugo brought sustained winds of more than 80 mph to some parts of the Pee Dee.

"We got calls from the national chapter of the American Red Cross that said it's looking really bad," Louis Nettles explained, who was chairman of the Florence County Red Cross Board of Directors in 1989.

On September 21, as Hugo came closer to the South Carolina coast, Nettles was helping the Red Cross chapter prepare an evacuation center. He remembers the nervous feeling he got as the calls from the national Red Cross continued late in the afternoon.

"[It was] like just before the roller coaster goes over the edge," he said. "You know it's going to be bad. I'll always remember them saying, 'And it's coming your way.'"

Nettles spent the night at the Red Cross shelter. Nearly 21 years later, as he looked through newspapers and even a Red Cross T-shirt he kept from September 1989, he remembered what that night was like.

"There was a machine shop across the street and we watched the tin peel off the roof as things progressed," Nettle recalled. "If I never see rain going sideways again, it'll be fine with me."

In Lake City, Kent Daniels also has newspaper souvenirs from Hugo. Photos show Cumberland United Methodist Church in Florence with its steeple blown away, damage to the steeple at Florence First Baptist Church, and tree limbs and other debris scattered across Cherokee Road in Florence.

Daniels, his wife and two daughters spent part of the night at home, but then nearby trees started to snap. They ran across the street to a school set up as a shelter.

"I had a third grader, and she must have weighed about 70 pounds," Daniels said. "The wind picked her up actually, and I said, 'Meghan, hold on. We're going across the street.'"

The next morning, Daniels found a tree had fallen on his house. He was just one of many who had a long clean-up process ahead.

He said he learned to prepare as much as possible for a hurricane, but in the aftermath, it is often necessary to have patients and "just go with the flow" because there are some things about a disaster recovery that no one can control.

Nettles said he was impressed by the outpouring of community support after the hurricane. He said everyone worked together to get things back to normal.

Now the hurricane serves as a reminder to always be prepared for a disaster.

"You just can't anticipate what the disaster will be, but you can anticipate that there's likely to be one somewhere, and it could be your back yard," Nettles warned.

He said part of the preparation for a disaster should include a plan for afterwards. He said there could be hours or even days when people are on their own before help arrives.

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