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Hurricane Hugo was the eighth named storm, sixth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 1989 Atlantic hurricane season. Hugo was the last in a series of Cape Verde hurricanes during mid-August and early September across the eastern tropical Atlantic. Hugo briefly attained Category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale before lashing the islands of the northeastern Caribbean Sea as a strong Category 4. Subsequently, Hugo impacted Puerto Rico as a Category 3, weakened to a Category 2, but then restrengthened into a Category 4 prior to making landfall near McClellanville, South Carolina. Initially, it was forecast that Hugo would hit near Savannah, Georgia. Had this occurred, it would have made Hugo the first major hurricane to strike Georgia since a hurricane during the 1898 season. At the time, Hugo was the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, surpassing even Hurricane Frederic in 1979. Hugo was itself surpassed only three years later by Hurricane Andrew during the 1992 season. Finally, Andrew was surpassed by Hurricane Katrina during the 2005 season.

Hugo was a very destructive storm, causing $10,000,000 (1989 USD) in damage and causing 56 direct fatalities.

Hurricane Hugo at peak intensity
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FormationSeptember 10, 1989
Dissipation September 22, 1989
Highest winds 160 mph
Lowest pressure 918 mbar
Deaths 56 direct
Damages $10,000,000,000 (1989 USD)
Areas affectedLeeward Islands, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, North Carolina, most of eastern North America
Part of the 1989 Atlantic hurricane season


Meteorological History

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Hugo developed from a tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa on September 9 as a cluster of thunderstorms. The next day, the wave was well enough organized to consider it a tropical depression while located southeast of the Cape Verde Islands. On September 11, the depression became Tropical Storm Hugo as it continued westward across the tropical Atlantic. Hugo steadily intensified, becoming a hurricane on September 13 while located about 1100 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Hugo turned west-northwest and decelerated due to a slight weakness in the subtropical ridge induced by a low pressure system north of Puerto Rico. At 0500 UTC September 7, Hugo's eye passed directly over the island of Guadeloupe. Hugo continued to decelerate as it took a turn to the northwest. Hugo passed over St. Croix at 0600 UTC September 18. Subsequently, Hugo began to accelerate and the eye moved across the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico at 1200 UTC that same day, and then it passed over the extreme eastern tip of mainland Puerto Rico an hour later. Early on September 19, Hugo was north of Puerto Rico and moving off to the northwest. By this time, the weakness within the subtropical ridge had largely diminished, and Hugo was under the eastward to southeastward steering flow of a ridge to the north, along with an upper-level low centered over Georgia. As the aforementioned upper low moved southwestward, Hugo continued moving northwest due to southeasterly steering flow. By September 21, Hugo was located a few hundred miles east of Florida and began a gradual turn and acceleration to the north in response to a major extratropical cyclone that was moving eastward across the central United States. As Hugo was approaching South Carolina, it regained Category 4 status, and its final landfall occurred near 0400 UTC September 22 at Sullivan Island. At this time, Hugo was accelerating northwestward at a forward speed as high as 23 knots.

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Hugo at its South Carolina landfall.

Inland and now weakening, Hugo passed between Columbia and Shaw Air Force Base around 0800 UTC that day. By 1200 UTC, Hugo weakened to a tropical storm and passed just west of Charlotte, North Carolina to near Hickory. Hugo moved northward across extreme western Virginia, West Virginia, eastern Ohio, and to near Erie, Pennsylvania by 0000 UTC September 23. During this time, Hugo was extratropical. Hugo's remnants could be tracked for two more days as it moved northeastward across eastern Canada and into the far northern Atlantic Ocean.

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