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Hurricane Hugo

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This marks the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo hitting Charlotte with a surprise visit, or at least one where the city wasn't properly prepared. Being a kid in Union County at the time, I remember very little about the storm other than it came in the dark of the night and that my older brother slept through the entire thing.

When Hugo hit Charlotte, the storm was less than a category one hurricane with sustained winds at 69 mph, but that was enough to pummel the city, knocking out power to an amazingly large amount of the area, not to mention the physical destruction of the storm. I remember that we were without power for exactly two weeks, though I believe that most had there power restored prior to that.

As 20 years have now passed, is Charlotte any more prepared for a storm like this, or would the city once again take the hit with its back turned?

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We would probably take precautions that the city didn't when Hugo hit, because you don't expect a tropical storm to do as much damage as it did in Charlotte in '89.

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I lived in Charlotte at the time. No one was prepared for the damage that storm caused. As far as being prepared, besides having shelters ready for displaced people, I don't know what else Charlotte could do. The damage done was from falling trees. Until power lines are buried, power will be out. Until the city gets rid of all the lovely oaks, trees will fall. Hugo was so unusual because no one was expecting winds to stay that powerful so far inland. The memory of that night makes me shudder.

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Hugo was a wake up call to the entire country that hurricanes don't just crush coastal areas. My aunt lives in Granite Falls, N.C. which is pretty darn close to the Appalachians, and her neighborhood was totally slammed. I understand it took the Appalachians to finally calm Hugo down.

Every time I see pics of Charlotte with a zillion power lines hanging everywhere, I'm aesthetically disappointed. But now after this 20 year anniversary of Hugo is reminding everyone what can happen, I'm also concerned about the potential danger of all those overhead lines.:(

Charlotte is the 2nd largest banking center in the US. Charlotte can't afford to be put out of power for two weeks. The US banking system can't afford to have Charlotte out of business for two weeks. Time to start burying power lines.

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I remember Hugo like it was yesterday. My story was printed in the Observer's Hugo commemorative section Monday. :blush:

The bottom line is this. Hugo was a fluke. I don't think that even with today's technology, they could predict it would move inland with the intensity it did. So, to the question at hand. Is Charlotte prepared for another surprise visit from a Hugo like storm? I would say, not by much. We still have plenty of large oaks. We still have plenty of overhead lines. We also have twice the population and twice the number of skyscrapers. I suppose the National Guard could be put on call with a couple days notice along with Red Cross shelters and police. Maybe a quick check of storm drains in flood zones. BTW, the Guard were all over Charlotte the day after the storm so even without that notice, I felt like they did a pretty good job of keeping the peace.

The biggest problem from what I remember (besides the fallen trees) was the lack of power and food supplies. So, if we were to be better prepared in any way at all, I would say maybe we, as individuals, could be better stocked up on supplies like food, batteries, etc, but we sure aren't going to be able to do much more than that, except pray.

--->> I had been thinking for a few weeks that I would like to start a Hugo photo thread to commemorate the 20 years. I am going to start the Hugo photo thread tonight, or if someone else does, that is fine too. I just think it would be kinda neat to see other UP members own Hugo photos.

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I was too young to really really remember that much but it still amazes me. It also has basically became the standard that all storms (even the 2002 ice storm which alot of us called Hugo on Ice) to ever hit this area to this day will forever be compared to.

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I was nine years old, lived in Hickory, and remember it very well. Even that far in, it was still rough. My parents brought my brother and I downstairs early in the morning, the power went out shortly after, and didn't come back on for at least a week. A giant 40' tree fell on my front porch - very lucky there...another 10' and it would have landed in our foyer. I lived in the country on 7 acres, with a lot of trees around us. We had a tornado rip through the forest behind my house, which flattened several acres of pines. It completely transformed the landscape of my parent's land. I will never forget it.

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Charlotte is the 2nd largest banking center in the US. Charlotte can't afford to be put out of power for two weeks. The US banking system can't afford to have Charlotte out of business for two weeks. Time to start burying power lines.

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Even though I was very young at the time, I can remember looking out of our bay window, mesmerized by all of the falling trees. I live up in Granite Falls (over an hour NW of Charlotte), and we still had LOTS of trees and power lines down. I think most of the damage came from small twisters touching down here and there.

After the storm, our power provider REALLY cut back on all the trees close to power lines and continue to do so every year or two. Since Hugo, the only time we've lost power due to weather was in the Superstorm of '93. So if there was a silver lining to the storm, I suppose trimming back the forest would qualify.

Hopefully not jinxing things, but I don't think we'll ever see a storm like Hugo here again in our lifetimes. To have a storm that strong (almost a cat 5) make landfall on the Atlantic Coast is extremely rare. Hugo also kept moving inland and at a high rate of forward speed, which is why it retained it's wind this far inland.

I don't have any pictures to share, but I look forward to seeing some!

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My story is like many others of waking up in the middle of the night to no power and going downstairs to ride the storm out with my parents. Luckily the damage to our house was minimal...just the back porch was crushed and some ventilation stuff on the roof blown off.

Something that I think is important to remember is the loss of communications. Our land line phones worked the whole time...but we had no power. So there was no wall to wall Local TV coverage to watch since most people didnt have power. We depended on 1110 WBT-AM to be our information source for EVERYTHING during the storm.

I think people need to remember that for the next storm...I dont think Cell service would be very dependable, and you wont be able to get tv. Internet might be able to last for a little while as long as cell service held up (and your laptop battery)...but really it would be the radio stations in town that would be the most dependable during power loss.

Hopefully the various TV and Radio stations are prepared to weather the next storm. Hugo nearly wiped out the stations back in 1989. The microwave tower fell down on top of the WSOC studios. A tower cable fell down on top of WCNC causing their roof to collapse. WBT lost 2 of their 3 antennas. Of course we didnt have News 14 or Fox 18 News around back then.

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Well news 14 will work as long as the cable works, it's funny how they advertise news14 when it comes to this sort of thing though it's mostly a jab at satellite when they do it. :lol:

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I think people need to remember that for the next storm...I dont think Cell service would be very dependable, and you wont be able to get tv. Internet might be able to last for a little while as long as cell service held up (and your laptop battery)...but really it would be the radio stations in town that would be the most dependable during power loss.

Hopefully the various TV and Radio stations are prepared to weather the next storm. Hugo nearly wiped out the stations back in 1989. The microwave tower fell down on top of the WSOC studios. A tower cable fell down on top of WCNC causing their roof to collapse. WBT lost 2 of their 3 antennas. Of course we didnt have News 14 or Fox 18 News around back then.

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The conditions that hurled Hugo at Charlotte do seem hard or rare to repeat. First, a hurricane has to land somewhere roughly between Hilton Head and Charleston to make the most direct J-hook path towards Charlotte. Second, the storm has to be sandwiched between a nearby High-pressure system over the Mid-Atlantic and a nearby Low-pressure system over the Deep South to fling the storm quickly inland. In other words, another hurricane could make landfall again in the "J-hook sweet-spot" but if not sandwiched between a High and Low, it would move inland more slowly, dumping rain on Charlotte, and thereby causing flash flooding, but likely not causing much wind damage.

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In that vein, there's a new bill in Congress that has been proposed. It has to do with the promotion of Ham Radio so that operators will be better able to provide emergency communication during disasters. Of course, Ham operators are already set up for that, but the bill would help formalize what already exists. Here's the bill: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/ge...h2160ih.txt.pdf

During Katrina, and even 911, Ham operators were johnny-on-the-spot with portable gear. Those two examples just touch on the service Ham Radio has provided. There are a lot of operators that take the program very seriously.

I've had my license since I was 12 (1973) but admit never participated in emergency drills. I did manage to get some messages out for some people the morning of Hugo. Boy, do I remember watching the trees fall around my recently installed 48 foot tower. Fortunately, it held fast. What was so interesting at the time was how few people outside the Charlotte area knew what had happened. Some of the operators didn't believe me when I told them about the distruction.

The good thing about Ham Radio these days is towers and massive antennae aren't really that necessary. Anyway, don't protest your neighbor's ham antenna tower too much; it might come in handy one day ;-)

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Even though I was very young at the time, I can remember looking out of our bay window, mesmerized by all of the falling trees. I live up in Granite Falls (over an hour NW of Charlotte), and we still had LOTS of trees and power lines down.

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