Where were you on September 21, 1989?

My memory of Hurricane Hugo…

Today I am spending a day at home inside with my family due to rain and winds from Hurricane Irene here in North Carolina. As I watch and listen to the news it brings me back to September 21, 1989 when Hurricane Hugo blew threw South Carolina. At that time I was much younger (19) and was living in Myrtle Beach with my boyfriend and his brother. We had only been in Myrtle Beach for about a month. We had moved there to go to College. I lived on Campus in Florence, S.C. and my boyfriend and his brother lived in a condo on Myrtle Beach. I soon realized that this is not where I wanted to be. I know what was I thinking, right? So I made plans to move back home in upstate New York. My mother was going to fly down and then drive back with me. Well wouldn’t you know the day she was scheduled to fly down was the same day Hugo was coming! No one was able to convince her not to fly down. She had her mind set, hurricane or not! (If you know me personally and/or my mother then you understand how stubborn we are and we stop at nothing for family)

So, Irene reminded me just how fast the weather can change in an instant and sometimes without warning, which is what happened that day. At 9am we received a knock on the door informing us that we had an hour to evacuate and get out. I thought to myself I can’t evacuate and leave my mother is on a flight down. She had flown from Albany, NY to Reagan National. Once she arrived at Reagan and was told they could not fly into Florence but could fly into Columbia. My mother made the decision to fly to Columbia. She panicked because no one had heard from me yet. The plan was for me to meet her in Florence but now she was headed to Columbia and no one knew where I was. Remember, it was 1989 so there were no cell phones, no way to text so the only way I could communicate was to call collect from a pay phone when I was able to. My Grandmother was our point of contact. We would call her and update her as to where we were so she could relay the information to the other one. No one knew that we were in bumper to bumper traffic. Normally it took about 45 minutes to drive from Myrtle Beach to Florence and on this day it took 3 hours. We had three different vehicles because we were not allowed to leave the vehicles on property. I drove stick-shift, it was hot and we moved very slowly because so many people were trying to get out. At this point I did not know my mom was flying into Columbia. When we finally made it to Florence and called my grandmother that is when I found out that my mother was flying to Columbia! Now I was panicked, not only was the hurricane coming but how was I going to find my mom now? There was no time to think so we started driving towards Columbia! During this time Hugo had changed its path again. I felt as if Hugo was following us, it seemed like we couldn’t drive fast enough! What a mess! We finally made it to Columbia Airport and found my mother! I was so relieved. It was time to get back on the road. We knew we had to keep driving north to find safety. We had no idea where or when that would be.

We drove to a town called Newberry. We stopped to get gas. The attendant told us we needed to get off the road or we would not make it. He told us about a local school that was serving as a shelter and that is where we went. Thank God we decided to stay at the shelter because Hugo came right up the path that we were driving, we would have gotten caught in it. It was bad enough that we were in this big brick building listening to Hugo go over the top of us. The noise was one that you never forget.

When the sun came up as much as you wanted to see outside, you almost didn’t. We weren’t allowed back to the condo since it was right on the beach and the damage was bad. When we were finally able to return, the drive was nothing short of being in shock. Why were some homes demolished and others weren’t touched, there was the obvious trees down, wires down but then there were boats that had been brought to shore and other homes moved to another location and all the personal items all over. I will never forget looking at the in ground pool and it was ripped out of the ground and looked like someone rolled it up. It was surreal. People’s lives were changed. I did not lose anything personal as everything that I had was with me in my car since I was already planning to move back. I was never so happy to move back home than I was after that. I grew up in the Adirondacks in Upstate New York, so I was used to cold and snow, but Hurricanes? That was a different story!

Here is a map showing Hurricane Hugo’s path!

Here is a map of South Carolina showing where Newberry is: we went from Myrtle Beach up to Florence then over to Columbia and then up to Newberry to reach safety.

Have you experienced a Hurricane? I Would love to hear your story!


3 thoughts on “Where were you on September 21, 1989?

  1. I just entered September 21, 1989 in the search engine to see what popped up. I was in N. Charleston, SC when it came through. We didn’t evacuate. We did hole up together in a neighbors house across the street though. I slept through it somehow. I was one month away from being 12. There were boats miles from the water, buildings missing, damage everywhere including enough downed trees to keep us from leaving the neighborhood other than by foot for about a week, and all the damage we received personally was a broken kitchen window and broken trees. We were fortunate. My friends mothers blazer was upside down in the driveway. I remember the whole state looking ragged and messed up for years. All the trees were broken at the same height throughout the whole state.

    • What an experience to go through at 12! You are right you were fortunate. Not sure if you have any pictures I don’t I only have a book that I had purchased afterwards that I look at and share with my kids.

      Thanks so much for sharing your story!


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