Hugo's lessons still reverberate 23 years later

Like shrimp and sweetgrass, Evelina Tolbert is a part of the Lowcountry landscape. As a Hugo veteran, she's familiar with the ins and outs of hurricanes.

"I stayed, me and my 4 children," Tolbert said. "It was horrible, it was frightening."

Travel up Meeting Street and you'll find dozens of people who remember 1989 like it was yesterday.

"A tree fell into her house while I was watching TV in the back of the house," said Dana Strange. "They say they've never seen me move so quickly."

Strange rode Hugo out. She says she won't take that chance again even though she feels like we're better prepared today.

"I hope we don't have to find out," Strange said.

Derrec Becker at the State Emergency Management Division says the lessons of Hugo are still being taught.

"We're as ready as we can be," said Becker. "Hugo was the model storm as far as taxing all of South Carolina's resources."

Four billion dollars in damage led to tighter building codes and increased enforcement especially for coastal homes, getting folks away from those houses has improved as well.

"The DOT Traffic cams we can pull up in this room and check for congestion and if necessary, make changes to our laid out plans," Becker said.

Becker says the flexibility and planning that grew out of Hugo should make evacuations go more smoothly as long as residents are prepared themselves and heed the warnings.

"Hugo taught us everyone from the citizen at home to the state responder need to be ready for anything," Becker said. "Unfortunately, South Carolina is vulnerable to everything but a volcano."

Back in Charleston, Tolbert has learned enough.

"When Hugo came, I didn't believe it would be bad. And it was. That taught me a lesson, next time they tell me to leave I'll leave," Tolbert said.

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