WIS reaches into the archives to remember Hugo

By Drew Stewart - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - While Hurricane Hugo made his presence known in the Charleston area of the Palmetto State, the storm still had enough steam to make his mark in the Midlands.

Transformers flickered in the night as Hugo's wrath blew through the capital city and most of South Carolina including Sumter, Orangeburg, Camden, and Manning.

Many tried to evacuate the Lowcountry, but some folks tried to stay.

WIS News 10 Senior Reporter Jack Kuenzie was sent down to report on what he saw and it was a similar scene.

"As we were driving up Highway 17, we started to see the electrical transformers starting to blow and it was like lightning," said Kuenzie.

Students at USC held a party as the storm made its way through Columbia in the overnight hours.

But when daylight hit, it was no laughing matter.

"There was this enormous swath of damage and destruction," recalled Kuenzie. "In many places it took weeks if not months, to return to a normal semblance of living."

"It was clearly much worse than anyone could have imagined," said Kuenzie. "This neighborhood alone that I was in was absolutely blocked by all of the debris."

Not only did Hugo devastate the landscape of South Carolina, it also meant near ruin to the livelihoods of its citizens, especially in one of the state's largest industries: forestry.

That industry alone sustained more than $1 billion statewide.

Tourism was also dealt a devastating blow. The storm left South Carolina's Grand Strand in shambles and cost the state millions in tourist dollars.

It took a few years, but both industries recovered and even flourished in the years since the storm.

Kuenzie, a news veteran with more than 34 years experience reporting, says this is one story he hopes to never have to cover again.

"We thought Hugo was going to be the ultimate storm and it turned out to be fortunately for us," said Kuenzie. "I hope I never see that kind of destruction again because it took so long for us to recover from Hugo.

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