Track of Hurricane Hazel.

Hurricane Hazel, 1954

Charlotte reporter Julian Scheer braves the wreckage in front of a burning house in Carolina Beach.

Hugh Morton. North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, UNC Chapel Hill.

Early one October morning residents and vacationers along North Carolina's coast woke up to find a monster devouring their towns. Before it was over, 19 of them would be dead, hundreds injured, and thousands homeless.

Hurricane Hazel was one of the most destructive and enduring storms ever to hit North Carolina. It struck as a Category 4 during high tide and remained strong even over land. By the next day, Hazel had carved a path of destruction 2,000 miles long, from the Caribbean to Canada. Beaches were flattened. Cities were flooded. Home were washed out to sea.

Over 50 years later, survivors are still telling their stories.

Hazel Statistics
Storm Type:
Cat. 4
Total Deaths:
NC Deaths:
Total Cost:
$2.8 billion
NC Landfall:
SC/NC Border
NC Wind Speed:
127 mph
NC Storm Surge:
18 ft
NC Rainfall:
(no data)
NC Pressure:
27.67 in
Hazel Timeline
October 05 Identified as a tropical storm east of Grenada in the Caribbean.
October 12 Makes landfall over Haiti as a Category Three hurricane.
October 15 Becomes a Category Four hurricane.
6:00 am Myrtle Beach, SC, begins experiencing hurricane winds.
9:20 am Eye makes landfall on the NC/SC border.
afternoon Becomes extratropical over Virginia.
10:00 pm Joins with a weak low pressure system over Buffalo, NY.
October 16 Causes flash flooding in Toronto, Canada.
October 18 Crosses the Arctic Circle and finally dies.

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