Southern History

Remembering Hurricane Hugo, Thirty Years Later

A look back at the wreckage left behind by the most destructive storm to hit Charleston in modern times

Just before midnight on September 22, 1989, Hurricane Hugo roared ashore slightly north of Charleston, South Carolina, as a Category 4 storm, leaving in its wake twenty-six dead in the United States and an indelible mark on those who lived through it. Even today, thirty years later, mentions of Hugo stir up memories of sailboats tossed like toys, splintered homes, and cars floating down the street. Pat Conroy painted a picture of the destruction etched forever in the Lowcountry’s collective memory in his novel South of Broad: “My city looks firebombed and unsalvageable, as if Hugo had taken it with a perverse sense of artistry, and turned Charleston into Guernica,” he wrote. “The city of the rarest man-made delicacy is on its knees, all putrefaction and carrion.” Here, the Historic Charleston Foundation shares striking images of the powerful storm’s aftermath. 

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