54 years since Hurricane Hazel

North Carolina has dealt with many hurricanes through the years, but on October 15, 1954, Hazel set the standard. Almost everything you see today in some parts of our area are all after Hazel, which left little standing when she blew ashore.

When time rounds the corner into October, you don’t tend to think about the Tropics anymore, and it is perfectly reasonable. Most North Carolina hurricanes strike during August and September, but hurricane season runs through November 30. Local residents discovered that firsthand back in 1954. On October 15, Hurricane Hazel made landfall near the community of Long Beach in Brunswick County. With winds over 145 mph, she was the only official category 4 storm to landfall here in the 20th century.

Hazel’s path and timing were somewhat unique. Her northward movement placed most of the news channel 3 viewing area in the right front quadrant of the storm. This provided an onshore flow of wind and increasing the storm surge. Hazel also arrived during the highest lunar tide of the year, driving water levels even higher.

Officially, Hazel’s storm surge topped 17 feet, leveling homes in Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender counties. Hazel was also unusual in terms of her forward speed. We all know that hurricanes usually weaken quickly once they move onshore, but hazel was moving so fast she outpaced her collapse rate.

By the time Hazel pushed into Virginia during the afternoon of October 15, she was moving nearly 50 mph. The storm caused $15 million in damage in Virginia and eventually spread destruction as far north as Canada. Canadians count hazel as one of their all-time greatest natural disasters.

Click here to watch another video of the devastating effect Hurricane Hazel cast upon North Carolina.

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