You might say it was the storm that changed the way we watch hurricanes.
September 21st, 1989, the category 4 Hurricane Hugo took on South Carolina with a vengeance. On its 16 day Atlantic path of destruction, it killed at least 86 people. It caused about 10 billion dollars (1989 unadjusted USD) worth of damage and it made South Carolinians pay attention.
“Us being this far up, you don’t think it would affect you and it did. It affected everybody a whole lot more,” said Taylors resident, Larry Carver.
Carver remembers it well. As rains whipped through the Greenville area, power outages and flooding forced some into his home with his family.
“Once that reality was that this could happen, I think the aftermath of later is what really got everybody. From then on everybody was scared to death,” said Carver.
A builder by trade, he knew this storm would change his business. Codes changed across the state, especially on the coast, to protect homes from winds. It also opened his eyes to a hurricane’s devastating effects. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, he went back 6 times to help relief efforts.
“I think it causes anybody, once you’ve been through something like that, once it’s happened to you and people that you know, it makes you more aware of what other people do go through,” said Carver.
Others were far from their South Carolina homes, but not out of danger.
“In the middle of the night, we got word that we needed to evacuate our rooms,” said Bob Cashion
He and wife, Ellen Cashion, were in St. Thomas, a Caribbean island first hit by Hugo.
“We were told to lock arms. We were going out on the seaward side of the hotel and down the stairs to the lowest level,” he said.
Pounded by winds of 130 mph, they made it to the ground level of their hotel and waited.
“We were watching these boats getting picked up and lifted into the street,” he said.
It would be 5 days before they could get word to their loved ones.
“We heard at McDonalds that one pay phone was working and the line was probably two hours long,” said Ellen Cashion.
The pictures, post cards, even a t-shirt tracking Hugo’s path keep those memories fresh, even 25 years later.
Like Carver, the Cashion’s say they were forever changed and, to this day, won’t take anything for granted.
“It makes you realize what can happen,” said Bob Cashion.
Hugo is considered one of the nation’s most destructive hurricanes of its time, with Hurricane Katrina topping the list.
The National Weather Service says Hugo packed winds of 135 miles an hour and record storm tides of up to 20 feet. Damage was estimated at 7 billion dollars in the US. 49 people were killed in the US. The Red Cross says 3,300 homes were destroyed and 18,000 had major damage.
The Red Cross is kicking off a 2 day “text-a-thon” in memory of Hurricane Hugo’s devastation. Sunday and Monday, you can text ‘REDCROSS’ at 90999 to donate 10 dollars. You can also donate online at www.RedCross.org/preparesc.