Hurricane Hugo, 27 years ago today - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Hurricane Hugo, 27 years ago today

Myrtle Beach oceanfront after Hugo Myrtle Beach oceanfront after Hugo
Damage in Garden City Damage in Garden City
Myrtle Beach oceanfront following Hugo. Myrtle Beach oceanfront following Hugo.
Hurricane Hugo coming ashore near Charleston Hurricane Hugo coming ashore near Charleston
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) Today marks 27 years since Hurricane Hugo devastated much of South Carolina.

Hugo produced the highest storm surge heights ever recorded along the U.S. East Coast with storm surge reaching 20 feet at Bulls Bay, SC. Storm surge along the Grand Strand was as high as 12 to 14 feet at the height of the storm. Hurricane force wind gusts were felt as far inland as western North Carolina during the day on September 22nd.  Many beach-front homes along the Grand Strand were destroyed, leaving numerous homes lying across the middle of Ocean Boulevard. Many residents were without power for nearly two weeks after Hugo. Damage estimates from the storm stand at 7 billion dollars with 49 lives lost as a direct result of the storm. Most buildings in downtown Charleston sustained significant damage, but the worst destruction occurred in beach towns north of Charleston such as Sullivan's Island and the Isle of Palms where the majority of homes were rendered uninhabitable due to the fact that this area received the strongest winds and highest storm surge.


"That storm surge was really the calling card for Hugo in the Grand Strand," says WMBF News Chief Meteorologist Jamie Arnold. "Places like Garden City, Surfside Beach - that's where we had double-digit surge, upwards of 10 feet. Just about every business on the ocean front was damaged or destroyed."


Buzz Plyer, the owner of The Gay Dolphin, a beach knick-knack store that has made its home along Ocean Boulevard since 1946, is no longer taking chances when it comes to hurricanes.  The Gay Dolphin was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel in 1954, and then it was severely damaged again in 1989 by Hugo. Buzz and a crew of men had put three-quarter-inch wood panels up along the exterior of the building to shield from Hugo, but it wasn't enough.


"We thought that we were in good shape, but the winds blew the roof off the building, tore the A/C off, and deposited it on the other side of the building,"

Plyer says.When it was all said and done, Buzz had around half a million dollars in damages that took nine months to repair.  He's since invested in metal storm shutters, and says everyone needs to get ready for the next Big One.


"The overwhelming majority of people don't know what we are going to suffer," Plyer warns.


For Jack Thompson, famed Myrtle Beach photographer, a thousand words are never enough to describe the destruction from Hugo.

"It was a surreal experience because you think you're walking through a dream and any minute you're going to wake up,” Thompson said.

Thompson was one of the thousands of people in the south strand just before Hurricane Hugo hit land.  The local photographer documented, and even protected the before, during, and after of it. 

“I'm not leaving my negatives,” he remembered saying. “If the tidal wave comes, you'll find me in the vault."

Now 27 years later, his camera lens continues to tell the story.

"The thoughts go back to the power of mother nature,” He said. “The power of the storm and the destruction."  

This day is significant in more than one way for Jack. It's the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, it's his birthday, and it's officially Jack Thompson day in Myrtle Beach. 


That same power is something Horry County Emergency Management still thinks about to this day.


"There was not a lot of pre-planning that had taken place,” said Randy Webster, director of Horry County Emergency Management.

Webster says the county was not ready for what was coming. He says planning and communication weren't up to par, and crews learned very quickly things needed to improve.

"It changed everything in terms of how we evacuate, how we shelter, setting up evacuation zones, and the whole thing that you see today,” Webster said.

 
Now, he says evacuation plans are different, communication is better, and things like a re-entry plan are possible. Webster says it's all linked to Hugo, because Hugo changed everything.
 


 

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