Hurricane Florence: Only 3 Category 4 hurricanes have made landfall in the Carolinas


How rare is it for a major Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in the Carolinas?

Only three have hit the region since 1851 and there has never been a Category 5 to make landfall in this area.

Florence will likely be added to this list, with catastrophic damage, according to WSB  Meteorologist Brad Nitz.

Hurricane and Storm Surge Warning has been issued for parts of the North and South Carolina coastlines.

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Here is a look back on the three previous Category 4 hurricanes that left behind a path of destruction in the Carolinas:

Hurricane Hazel, October 1954

Hazel is the only Category 4 hurricane recorded to ever hit the North Carolina coast. 

The hurricane made landfall on Oct. 15, 1954, in Calabash, North Carolina, near the South Carolina border. There were winds estimated as high as 150 mph and Calabash had a storm surge of 18 feet.

The effects of Hazel extended to Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York before the storm moved into Canada. 

In North Carolina, Hazel was responsible for:

  • Killing 19 people and injuring hundreds
  • Destroying 15,000 homes and damaging 39,000 homes 
  • $163 million in damage in the Carolinas with $61 million in beach property damage

[READ: Hurricane Florence: Those who have lived through storms offer their advice]

Hurricane Gracie, September 1959

Hurricane Gracie made landfall as a Category 4 around noon on Sept. 29, 1959, near St. Helena Sound.

Wind were estimated at 150 MPH in the South Carolina coastal counties of Beaufort, Colleton and Charleston and downed many trees and power lines.

The storm made its landfall during a low tide, which limited the storm surge to under 12 feet. Gracie produced heavy rain and tornadoes, including a F2 tornado that killed 12 people in Ivy, Virginia. 

It is estimated that Gracie killed 22 people overall and cost $14 million at the time in damage. Charleston County suffered the most widespread damage.

[EXPLAINER: How does a hurricane form?]

Hurricane Hugo, September 1989

Huge made landfall near Charleston, South Carolina, at Sullivan's Island on Sept. 22, 1989, just after midnight. The Category 4 storm sustained winds of 135-140 mph winds. 

The hurricane had one of the highest storm tides recorded on the East Coast, with a storm surge between 18 and 20 feet. 

Hugo was responsible for 26 deaths in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

The estimated cost of damages was $7 billion and Hugo remained the costliest hurricane to hit the United States until Hurricane Andrew in 1992. 

Data and statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources were used in this report. 


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