A look back at Hurricane Hugo, which hit 30 years ago this week

It's considered the worst hurricane to hit South Carolina in modern history, and it happened 30 years ago this week.


Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) — It’s considered the worst hurricane to hit South Carolina in modern history, and it happened 30 years ago this week. Even the Midlands were impacted by Hurricane Hugo.

“It’s known for having the largest recorded storm surge in a hurricane north of Florida,” said Frank Alsheimer, Science and Operations Officer with the National Weather Service Forecasting Office in Columbia.

The storm claimed dozens of lives.

“We had deaths because of the storm surge, deaths because of winds and we also had deaths in marine areas. People often try to ride it out on boats in the rivers, for instance,” said Alsheimer.

In 1989, forecasters were not exactly sure where the category 4 storm would make landfall.

“We didn’t have the forecasting back in the late 1980’s that we have now. And so a storm like Hugo, there were warnings along the coast all the way from Florida all the way up to North Carolina because of the uncertainty of exactly where it was going to come onshore,” said Alsheimer.

In the 30 years since Hugo hit, technology has advanced and now allows forecasters to better predict and track dangerous storms.

“Our computer models are far more sophisticated. We know more about the science, we have a lot more computing power, and so we are much more accurately able to predict where a storm is going to hit, and where it’s going to hit,” said Alsheimer.

Decades later, the message isn’t changing. If it’s hurricane season; be prepared.

“We are in the hurricane belt. And even though a storm like Hugo only comes around once every 50 years, any year could be the year that it happens. And so you always want to have that preparation in mind,” he said.

Hurricane Hugo showed people that it’s not just those who live along the coast that are impacted by hurricanes.

“So that changed the awareness that a storm like this did not have a local limited impact near the coast. It could have impacts well inland. And so, preparation changed,” said Alsheimer.

There’s still more than a month left in this year’s hurricane season, with the NWS keeping an eye on several tropical storms right now. It’s not too late to make sure you and your family are prepared.

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