Track of Hurricane Hugo.

Hurricane Hugo, 1989

The Ben Sawyer Bridge to Sullivan's Island, SC, sags into the water.


Hurricane Hugo was one of the costliest and most intense hurricanes ever to hit the United States, let alone the Carolinas. It slammed into Charleston as a Category Four hurricane and punched through all the way to Charlotte where it hammered even that inland city with 85 mph winds. Trees were uprooted, houses were crushed, and lives were lost.

Even after the storm, recovery was difficult. One-and-a-half million people were without power, including 98% of the city of Charlotte. Some labored without power for up to 18 days while enormous trees blocked roads and down power lines endangered cleanup crews.

Twenty years later, residents of the Piedmont of North Carolina still remember the devastation of Hugo and will never again believe that their inland communities are immune to hurricanes.

Hugo Statistics
Storm Type:
Cat. 4
Total Deaths:
NC Deaths:
Total Cost:
$17.4 billion
SC Landfall:
SC Wind Speed:
138 mph
SC Storm Surge:
20 ft
SC Rainfall:
10 in
SC Pressure:
27.61 in
Hugo Timeline
Sept 11 Becomes a tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean.
Sept 13 Becomes a Category One hurricane.
Sept 15 Becomes a Category Four hurricane. A hurricane hunter aircraft nearly crashes in Hugo's 160 mph winds.
Sept 17 Hits the islands of Guadeloupe and Montserrat; 21 people die.
Sept 18 Hits Puerto Rico as a Category Three hurricane; 9 people die.
Sept 20 Grazes the Bahamas with 100 mph winds. Carolinians being storm preparations.
Sept 21-22 Hits Charleston, SC, just after midnight as a Category Four hurricane with 137 mph winds.
Sept 22 Over Charlotte at 7:00 in the morning as a tropical storm with 60 mph winds.
Sept 23 Over the Ohio Valley.
Sept 25 Dissipates in the North Atlantic Ocean.

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