Track of Hurricane Hazel.

Economic Impact

A fallen tree crushes a car in Chapel Hill.

Roland Giduz, 1954. North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, UNC Chapel Hill.

Property Damage
Caused by Hazel
Total $2.8 billion
US $2.3 billion
North Carolina $1.1 billion
South Carolina $216 million
Carolina Beach $136 million
Wrightsville Beach $56 million
New Topsail Beach $20 million
Carteret County $16 million

Hurricane Hazel carved a path of destruction 2,000 miles long, from Haiti to Toronoto, Canada. Although estimates of total damage vary, the economic cost to North Carolina was greater than any other state or nation. As far inland as Raleigh, trees fell at a rate of two or three per block, crushing homes and cars.

Brunswick County was the hardest hit. In Long Beach, only five of the 357 buildings survived. In Sourthport, 35-ton shrimp trawlers were thrown into the streets.

The National Weather Service reported, "Forests of pine and other trees appeared to be scorched by fire. … Groves of pecan trees were heavily damaged. … An estimated one-third of all buildings east of the 80th parallel received some damage. Roofs and television aerials were the most widely hit, but some radio towers, outdoor theaters, and many signboards were counted among the losses."

New Hanover County also sustained heavy damage, and Carolina Beach suffered more than any other town or city. Many bridges, piers, and ferries were lost. The Wilmington Reserve fleet sustained $8 million in damages, and the sewage plant at Wrightsville Beach was destroyed.

With total North Carolina damages exceeding $1 billion, Hazel was one of the most costly hurricane to ever hit the state. It was not surpassed until Hugo in 1989.


All dollar amounts have been adjusted for inflation as of 2009.
Sources