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Hurricane HugoReturn
A pier in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, was torn apart by Hurricane Hugo.
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Location: South Carolina, North Carolina
Date: September 1989
Intensity at landfall: Category Four
Dead: 82
Damage: 7 billion dollars

After smashing Guadeloupe, Montserrat, and the U.S. Virgin Islands on September 17, Hurricane Hugo brushed Puerto Rico and headed for the U.S. coast, intensifying into a Category Four storm.

On September 21, Hugo slammed into Charleston, South Carolina, with winds topping 138 miles (222 kilometers) an hour. The storm surge was 20 feet (32 meters), the highest ever recorded on the U.S. East Coast.

South Carolina's barrier islands were devastated. Homes were swept clean off their foundations. The Atlantic House, a restaurant built over the water, disappeared in the storm, leaving only its pilings behind.

More than half of Charleston's 4,000 historic buildings were damaged. The Ben Sawyer Bridge over the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway was partially submerged, and huge oak trees were toppled like bowling pins.

Tens of thousands of loblolly pines in Frances Marion National Forest were sheared off, a loss of timber estimated at a hundred million dollars.

Hugo maintained 100-mile-an-hour (161-kilometer-an-hour) gusts even when it was almost 200 miles (322 kilometers) inland. Power was lost in most of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, and 80,000 trees there were destroyed.

With a price tag of seven billion dollars, Hugo held the title of costliest storm until Hurricane Andrew in 1992.


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