Bill Sharpe remembers Hurricane Hugo’s SC landfall 32 years ago

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 6:44 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 8:21 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - I knew it was gonna be bad the first night.

When Weatherman Charlie Hall came back from the teletype machine with the latest on the storm, I could see it on his face. Things didn’t look good for us . I had never seen Charlie so serious, anxious and down.

Hugo made a direct hit on the Lowcountry. There was devastation all around. This monster came ashore on Sullivan’s Island as a category 4 storm with winds whipping up over 130 miles an hour.

I toured the island soon after it hit. It was strange to see empty stairs leading to nothing. Then, right next door, a house that was standing intact, barely touched by the fury of the storm.

The land and streets were flooded everywhere.

The town of McClellanville bore the full brunt of the hurricane. It tore through this quaint little fishing community east of the Cooper River. The damage here was stunning.

Everywhere I looked in the Lowcountry, trees were down, the cool shade of so many familiar pines was gone.

Just down the road from Mccllellanville, in Awendaw, we learned later, people climbed up to the top of Lincoln High standing on chairs on top of desks to get above the rising flood waters of the storm surge. They all made it, some barely.

I remember seeing boats tossed up on the street, blocking parts of Lockwood Boulevard in downtown Charleston. For days after the storm, we broadcast 12 hours a day simulcasting on both television and the radio to bring people the latest on the recovery. We spoke about things like where to get a hot meal and water, and where the traffic lights were working again, as well as which hospitals had the lights back on, and when power might be coming back for the rest of us.

I saw National Guard troops on King Street downtown, protecting the city from looting.

One of them stopped me to find out why I was breaking curfew. I told him I was working. He let me go on to the television station which had flooded on East Bay Street.

Two and a half weeks after the storm, I remember seeing an out-of-state power company in my neighborhood. I was so grateful I wanted to hug the guys restoring our electricity.

Several times, always alone, I broke down and cried. It hit me hard.

The normal rhythm of our lives was disrupted and we couldn’t get things back to normal. I had never seen anything like Hurricane Hugo.

I never want to again.

Bill Sharpe

Charlie Hall, Bill Sharpe sign off from the old studios as Hurricane Hugo approaches
Charlie Hall, Bill Sharpe sign off from the old studios as Hurricane Hugo approaches

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