Twenty-five years ago this month, Hurricane Hugo, a strong category four storm, smashed ashore just northeast of Charleston on September 21, 1989. It remains the worst recorded hurricane in the state’s history.
With damaging winds extending 140 miles out from its eye, Hugo’s outer edge began battering Charleston by midevening. By midnight, however, harbor buoys were recording sustained winds of 105 miles-per-hour, gusts over 130, and a storm surge seventeen feet above normal high tide. In addition, Hugo spawned numerous tornados, torrential rainfall, and unprecedented flooding. Homes dislodged from their foundations. Vessels from the City Marina broke loose and drifted into downtown streets and houses. Bridges bent and buckled. Even the National Weather Service’s building, located at the Charleston Air Force base, had its roof blown off.
Statewide damages from Hugo were in the billions of dollars. Out of the approximately 97,000 homes damaged, some 5,000 were obliterated. Hugo also caused a “forestry disaster,” and, according to a 1989 local news documentary, downed enough trees to “rebuild the City of Charleston forty times over.” Twenty-six South Carolinians perished.
Anheuser-Bush Regional Bottling Plant
After the storm, thousands of businesses, civic groups and volunteers nationwide rushed to aid South Carolina’s stricken Lowcountry; providing essential supplies such as food, shelter, and, most importantly, potable water. The Anheuser-Busch brewing company, for example, being in a “unique position to produce and ship large quantities of drinking water,” utilized its southern-based bottling plants and distributors to can and deliver massive amounts of clean water to the Charleston area.