Track of Hurricane Hugo.

Environmental Impact

This animation shows how Hugo was propelled inland so quickly. (At the website, click the "Hugo Gets a Boost" tab to view the animation.)

Pine trees snapped by Hugo's winds.

Hugo is the 11th most intense hurricane to hit the United States. At the time, the US hadn’t seen a hurricane as strong as Hugo since Camille in 1969, which had hit Mississippi twenty years earlier.

Not only was Hugo intense, it was also fast. As Hugo approached landfall in South Carolina, two other weather systems were already waiting like sentinels on either side of the state. A low pressure system lingered over the Gulf of Mexico, and a high pressure system hovered off the Virginia Capes. These two systems were rotating in opposite directions so that when Hugo passed through, it was squeezed between them and shot forward at 20 mph like a baseball in a pitching machine. (See the link to an animation at the right.)

Hugo’s quick pace brought its destructive winds far inland where it devastated woodlands across the Carolinas. Nearly 70% of the lumber-quality trees in the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina were ruined. This amounted to 6 billion board-feet of lumber, three times more than was lost in the eruption of Mount St. Helens. This destruction permanently ending all logging operations there. In North Carolina, 68,000 acres of forest were destroyed, and an additional 2.7 million acres were damaged. In Charlotte, Hugo brough 85 mph winds which blew down 80,000 trees in the city. "City officials said that Hugo buried Charlotte in 2 million cubic yards of limbs and other debris. They estimated it would take 200,000 dump truck loads to haul away" (