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32 years ago, Hurricane Hugo ravished Carolinas

Hugo made landfall near Charleston, South Carolina, and it reached Charlotte about five hours later
DIGITAL EXTRA: #Hugo25: Remembering Hurricane Hugo: 25 Years Later
DIGITAL EXTRA: #Hugo25: Remembering Hurricane Hugo: 25 Years Later
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 10:13 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Thirty-two years ago, a Category 4 Hurricane ravaged the Carolinas.

On Sept. 22, 1989, Hurricane Hugo made landfall, and caused destruction along the East Coast, and even caused catastrophic damage in the Charlotte area.

Hugo made landfall near Charleston, South Carolina, and it reached Charlotte about five hours later.

Hugo swept through Charlotte like a thief in the night.

WBTV’s Steve Crump says the storm was unlike anything he’s ever been through.

“We weren’t a coastal community that was in the bull’s eye, we got pulled into this thing,” Crump said.

By the time the sun came up, Charlotte was covered in trees. Thousands of them lined streets, others atop power lines and some stranded people in their houses.

Over 90 percent of the city’s homes didn’t have power, and some wouldn’t have any power for up to two weeks.

Further south, there were more homes destroyed and more families devastated.

“The city of Charlotte, through Hurricane Hugo, learned how to handle crisis,” Crump said.

For Patrick George, owner of Heartwood Tree Service, it’s been 30 years and he can still remember the devastation of downed trees from Hurricane Hugo.

“It was being in a different world, it was not the town I grew up in riding around most of the streets seemed like they were blocked just everywhere,” George said. “It was an equal opportunity storm. It didn’t matter what part of town you lived in, there was destruction everywhere.”

Heartwood Tree Service spent more than two months just getting downed trees off homes, yet it took about a year of working before sun up and after sun down, before they were able to get caught up on all the tree work from Hugo.

“The traffic was unbelievably bad because nobody had television, nobody had power, nobody could do anything at home, so you’re out wandering the streets, looking at all the amazing sites of trees being down, trees on houses, and things destroyed,” George said.

Besides fallen trees, the other issue was loss of power. At one point, Duke Energy reported 98 percent of customers didn’t have electricity.

It was a real wake-up call for Duke Energy. And since then, its technology has changed so much that they can bring back someone’s power, with just the click of a button.

Hugo directly killed 67 people in its path. At its peak, wind gusts reached up to 160 mph.

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