On October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel made landfall at Long Beach. The storm’s arrival in North Carolina occurred on a full moon high tide, maximizing impact of the storm surge on the barrier beaches of Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle, Holden Beach, Long Beach, Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Island.
Devastation was widespread but nowhere was the impact more severe than on Long Beach (present-day Oak Island), where a 17-foot storm surge swept away 352 of the 357 structures on the island. The dramatic surge was, and remains, singular in North Carolina’s recorded history.
Hazel was the only Category Four hurricane of the twentieth century to strike North Carolina. Its winds topped 140 miles per hour. After landfall it tracked inland, and battering winds cut a wide swath northward toward Raleigh. High winds toppled trees, ripped roofs, and tore down signs and power lines across the state. Hazel was responsible for 95 deaths in the US, including 19 in North Carolina. Hazel remains the standard by which other North Carolina hurricanes are measured.