Track of Hurricane Hazel.

Environmental Impact

Flood waters in Morehead City reach the rooftops of houses.

Hurricane Hazel struck North Carolina early in the morning on October 15, 1954. By coincidence, October 15 was also the lunar high tide, which meant that sea level was already higher than normal when Hazel's storm surge arrived.

Beaches from Southport to Topsail Beach saw storm surges of 15 feet. In Calabash and Holden Beach, the surge was a record-setting 18 feet. Even Morehead City, over a hundred miles from landfall, suffered severe flooding.

Hazel's powerful winds whipped across the beaches, gusting up to 150 miles per hour between Myrtle Beach and Cape Fear. Even inland cities like Raleigh and Fayetteville experienced hurricane-force winds.

After landfall, Hazel remained unusually intense and continued to charge inland at 50 miles per hour. Twelves hours later, Hazel still raged as an extratropical storm over New York state. Later that night, it reached all the way into southeastern Canada where its heavy rainfall caused rivers to overflow and flood the city of Toronto.

Hazel changed the landscape of coastal North Carolina. The storm surge re-opened Mary's Inlet, which had been recently closed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Once grassy dunes were now flat, white, sandy beach. To rebuild these dunes, an artificial sand dune barrier was completed by October 30.

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