20 years since Hurricane Hugo made landfall

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WIS) - It's the 20th anniversary of the worst natural disaster in modern times in South Carolina.

Hurricane Hugo, a Category 4 storm, smashed ashore at Charleston with its 135 mph winds 20 years ago on Monday.

Charleston city spokeswoman Barbara Vaughn says there are no city observances of the occasion.

On the first anniversary of the storm, state and local leaders gathered at Charleston City Hall for a candlelight observance.

Ironically, that event was cut short by a thunderstorm.

Hurricane Hugo was first detected as a tropical wave emerging from the coast of Africa on September 9, 1989.

Moving steadily westward, the system became a tropical depression the next day, a tropical storm on September 11, and a hurricane on September 13.

Hugo turned west-northwest on September 15 as it became a Category 5 hurricane.

It was still a Category 4 hurricane when the center moved through the Leeward Islands, St. Croix and Virgin Islands on September 18.

Turning northwestward, the center passed across the eastern end of Puerto Rico on September 19. This general motion would continue with some acceleration until Hugo made landfall just north of Charleston on September 22.

Hugo strengthened in the last twelve hours before landfall, making it a Category 4 hurricane when it hit the coast.

After landfall, the storm gradually recurved northeastward, becoming extratropical over southeastern Canada on September 23.

The Naval Air Station at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico reported sustained winds of 104 mph with gusts to 120 mph, which were the highest winds reported from the Caribbean.

A ship moored in the Sampit River in South Carolina measured sustained winds of 120 mph.

High winds associated with Hugo extended far inland, with Shaw Air Force Base reporting 67 mph sustained winds with gusts to 110 mph and Charlotte reporting 69 mph sustained winds and gusts to 99 mph.

Storm surge from Hugo inundated the South Carolina coast from Charleston to Myrtle Beach, with maximum storm tides of 20 ft observed in the Cape Romain-Bulls Bay area.

Hugo was responsible for 21 deaths in the mainland United States, five more in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and 24 more elsewhere in the Caribbean. Damage estimates are $7 billion in the mainland United States and $1 billion in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. says that, despite the storm and the devastation that took months and, in some cases, years to repair, Charleston is stronger and more beautiful than at any time in its history.

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