HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Hurricane Hazel made landfall in the Carolinas on October 15th 1954 and was the deadliest and costliest hurricane of the 1954 Atlantic hurricane season. The storm caused as many as 600 direct fatalities and $2.8 billion in damage in the United States alone.
Hazel made landfall during the morning hours of October 15, very near Little River. The storm was officially a Category 4 at landfall, with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour, with higher gusts. The hurricane brought a storm surge of over 18 feet in many places across northeast South Carolina and southeast North Carolina, wreaking havoc all across the Grand Strand. The storm's surge was made worse by the fact that the hurricane coincided with the highest lunar tide of the year.
The strongest winds from the storm ripped through the coastline between Myrtle Beach and Cape Fear, North Carolina with wind speed estimates of 130 to 150 miles per hour at Holden Beach, Oak Island, Calabash, Little River Inlet and Wrightsville Beach. Wilmington recorded winds of 96 miles per hour, and the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base had a wind gust of 120 mph. Areas as far inland as Fayetteville, North Carolina recorded gusts as high as 110 miles per hour.
After landfall, Hurricane Hazel continued on its northward track across North Carolina and Virginia during the morning of October 15. Hazel continued to push northward across the Mid Atlantic states, into Pennsylvania and New York, and eventually into southeastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec on the 15th and 16th.
Brunswick County, North Carolina suffered the greatest damage, where most coastal dwellings were either damaged or completely destroyed. In Long Beach, North Carolina, only five of 357 buildings were left standing along the coast. It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of oceanfront houses and motels in Myrtle Beach were also destroyed by the storm. The rebuilding of Myrtle Beach after the storm is often credited with transforming the city to the high-rise resort town it is today.