Remembering Hazel: Winds for the Record Books

By Grace Muller, Staff Writer
October 16, 2012; 9:05 PM ET
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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
Hazel was responsible for 95 deaths and $281 million in damage in the United States, 100 deaths and $100 million in damage in Canada, and an estimated 400 to 1000 deaths in Haiti.

Hazel was first spotted east of the Windward Islands on October 5, [1954]. It moved through the islands later that day as a hurricane, then it moved westward over the southern Caribbean Sea through October 8. A slow turn to the north-northeast occurred from October 9-12, with Hazel crossing western Haiti as a hurricane on the 12th. The hurricane turned northward and crossed the southeastern Bahamas on the 13th, followed by a northwestward turn on the 14th. Hazel turned north and accelerated on October 15, making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near the North Carolina-South Carolina border. Subsequent rapid motion over the next 12 hours took the storm from the coast across the eastern United States into southeastern Canada as it became extratropical.

For an interactive map of Hurricane Hazel visit the NOAA Coastal Services Center.

High winds occurred over large portions of the eastern United States. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina reported a peak wind gust of 106 mph, and winds were estimated at 130 to 150 mph along the coast between Myrtle Beach and Cape Fear, North Carolina. Washington, DC reported 78 mph sustained winds, and peak gusts of over 90 mph occurred as far northward as inland New York state. A storm surge of up to 18 ft inundated portions of the North Carolina coast. Heavy rains of up to 11 inches occurred as far northward as Toronto, Canada resulting in severe flooding.

"A fallen tree crushes a car in Chapel Hill."
Roland Giduz. North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, UNC Chapel Hill.

Memories of Hazel, including many from the AccuWeather Facebook fan page: meteorologist Elliot Abrams: I was 7 and living in Philadelphia. I'd been watching Hazel on the TV weather shows as it approached the Carolina coast. As [the storm] approached, they closed school early. As Hazel came through, the wind increased dramatically. The trees were shaking more than I'd ever seen then. I liked to watch the weeping willow tree because it showed the wind direction and how strong the wind was. In one particularly strong gust, I saw [the tree] blow over with the roots coming out of the ground. The storm knocked down one of the large sycamores in such a way that it blocked our street but me and my friends loved it because we were able to climb through the tree until the city streets department took it away a week or two later.

Sandy D: My parents got married the day after Hazel in Syracuse. It took my dad soo long to get to the church that she began to think he stood her up. Then when they began the candlelit ceremony. my mom kept waiting for the electric church organ to begin the march. No organ music. LOL! meteorologist Evan Myers: I was only 4 at the time, but I remember going to the super market (yes they had them back then) with my parents in Philly. As we drove home (we were buying milk and bread) trash cans blew across the street and just missed hitting our car. At the height of the storm many trees in our neighbohood blew down and we had no power for several days.

Toby W: I remember this vividly because when I was little, my parents went to Syracuse for a medical appt. for my mom and we were left with a neighbor. My parents could not get home for hours because trees had fallen across Rt. 11 South of Syracuse.

Thomas F: My Dad was in 82nd airborne stationed at Ft Bragg and couldn't leave the base so me and my younger brother and mom rode out Hazel with mom rocking us while the storm raged outside.I was 2 and brother was 1, so you can imagine how terrified she was.

Sharyn L: I arrived back in Canada at Halifax harbor pretty much with the storm. My mother and I were returning from England.We went on by train to Toronto.I will never forget the sound of the winds and the rain and the rocking of the train.

Nat M: we lived on topsail island and lost our house and new car with my dog being found on a roof top by the [sheriff].


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