Grand Strand resident recalls Hugo damage

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) In the long history of South Carolina's hurricanes, few names stand out like Hurricane Hugo. Hugo roared ashore at midnight on September 22, 1989 just north of Charleston.

It was a powerful category four hurricane with winds of 135 mph, but as wicked as the winds were, it was the storm surge that brought so much devastation to the Grand Strand. Near where the storm made landfall, the tiny coastal town of McClelanville, recorded a storm surge of as much as 18 feet. In the Grand Strand, the surge was as high as six to 10 feet along the entire length of the Georgetown and Horry County coastline. The wall of water damaged or destroyed hundreds of structures, wiped out beach front motels and buried Ocean Boulevard under feet of sand.

Tony Perry was working and living at Lakewood Campground when the storm blew in.  He recalls the destruction he saw the morning after the storm.

"As soon as we got into the pavilion area where we are right now, we could see that it actually took out half our buildings and there was nothing left. All that was left was sand dunes. So the ocean had reclaimed what we tried to claim," recalls Perry.

At the time it hit South Carolina, Hugo was the costliest hurricane in US history. The storm battered the South Carolina coast in September 1989 and left behind hundreds of  miles of destruction.

Perry also documented the damage with his VHS camcorder.  The Perry family was kind enough to let us see this rare, morning after video that shows the scope of the damage. Where once there were buildings, only broken concrete remained.  Tree lined streets full of motor homes and trailers were left empty and swept clean.  Sand dunes that once protected the campground from the ocean, were flattened and pushed into the park.

Perry says "as far as preparedness goes, you can never be too prepared. Don't take any of these storms for granted for sure.  If one's coming you need to be prepared. Don't just say, 'oh I'll be fine'."

It took six months for the campground to finally open, but years later the memory of one of the Grand Strand's worst hurricanes is still fresh.

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