Tracking one of the most destructive Atlantic hurricanes in history
Hurricane "Hugo" (1989) was a classic Cape Verde-type hurricane 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 the 11th, and a hurricane on the 13th. It caused widespread damage and loss of life in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Southeast United States.
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 and St. Croix, USVI, and the 18th. 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, South Carolina on September 22. Strengthening in the last twelve hours before landfall made Hugo a Category 4 hurricane at the coast. After landfall, the storm gradually recurved northeastward, becoming extratropical over southeastern Canada on September 23.
The Naval Air Station at Roosevelt Roads, PR reported sustained winds of 167 km/h (104 mph) with gusts to 193 km/h (120 mph), which were the highest winds reported from the Caribbean. A ship moored in the Sampit River in South Carolina also measured sustained winds of 193 km/h.
High winds associated with Hugo extended far inland, with Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina reporting 107 km/h (67 mph) sustained winds with gusts to 177 km/h (110 mph).
Storm surge from Hugo inundated the South Carolina Coast from Charleston to Myrtle Beach, with maximum storm tides of 6 meters (20 feet) observed in the Cape Romain-Bulls Bay area. (NHC)
This animation shows the intensity of the storm using colorized infrared imagery from the GOES-7 satellite from September 12-23, 1989. Orange and red colors indicate area with the coldest, highest cloud tops that are associated with the greatest convective strength, rainfall, and winds.
Video courtesy NOAA Visualizations
Hurricane "Hugo" caused 34 fatalities (most by electrocution or drowning) in the Caribbean and 27 in South Carolina, left nearly 100 000 homeless, and resulted in $10 billion (1989 USD) in damage overall, making it the most damaging hurricane ever recorded at the time.
Of this total, $7 billion was from the United States and Puerto Rico, ranking it as the costliest storm to impact the country at the time.
Since 1989, however, it has been surpassed by multiple storms and now ranks as the 14th costliest in the United States (2012 data).
Infrared image of Hurricane "Hugo" making landfall on September 22, 1989. Courtesy of NESDIS
Tropical Cyclone Report for Hurricane Hugo (NHC)
Interactive map of Hurricane Hugo (NOAA/CSC)
Featured image NOAA Visualizations
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