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  • Writer's pictureDoak Turner

Hurricane Hugo September 22 and 23rd, 1989

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

Right now, Hurricane Irene has hit the East coast the past couple of days and bringing back memories of Hurricane Hugo hitting Charlotte and I lived on Lake Norman, NC. We all said, no problem, we are four hours away from the coast and we do not get Hurricanes in Charlotte – wrong!

I lived in Wynward Harbor – condo at a marina, small restaurant, wooden docks, little cove on the lake with a beach and pools across the cove. You could hear the sailboats clanging in the wine and my neighbor, ruth, a hairstylist and I were talking that Friday night, the wind started blowing, the rain started coming and Ruth could not find her cat! We went in the grass area towards the lake, looking for her cat – in the rain. Ruth and I got soaked and went around to the front doors of our condos and there was her cat – dry as could be!

I went up to my condo on the 2nd floor, hit the bed around 2:00 AM. The wind was blowing – but no big deal. I woke around 8:00 went into the kitchen and the power was off. The clock on the stove said 6:15 – before digital – the clock with dials had stopped. I looked outside from the deck and no structural damage or trees down, went out the front door and walked to the marina. I slept through Hurricane Hugo! The marina – docks were blown into the next cove over to our left taking the boats with it. Boats were wrecked and sunk in the lake. I remember the looks on people’s faces as they made their way to the marina to see their boats were out in the lake, banged into each other, some still attached to the docks – beautiful sailboats and speed boats entangled in the cove across the way.

I tried the telephone as the cell phone was not working, we could only call to people on Lake Norman. I was worried that I could not call home to let the family know I was OK and did not like that feeling. The power came on from what I remember later in the morning, so I could listen to the radio and TV for reports. I remember Big Paul Franklin talking on WSOC radio (God rest that great man’s soul)  talking about the obstacle course he took to make it to the radio station that morning, trees and power lines down everywhere in Charlotte.

I called some friends that lived close to my condo and their yard was a mess – John and Mona – friend’s of my friend Melissa. I called my friend Sam who lived in Charlotte and found out he had several trees down in his yard. The next two days were spent helping those friends clean their yards – the least I could do to help.

Later that day, my friend Glenda and I drove to Charlotte to her parent’s home, and their home was not damaged  and they had phone service. I remember the emotion sweeping over me when I was able to call home and tell Mom and Jerry I was OK. Mom said they were headed to Charlotte the next morning if they did not hear from me.

I remember that eerie and quite feeling of walking in Wynward Harbor that Saturday night, knowing we had survived the wrath that affected millions of people’s lives and dreams through the Carolinas. Neighbors across the lake were without power for two weeks.

I took a business trip to Myrtle Beach and Charleston, SC about a month later and remember seeing the tree tops on I-95 just broken off like matchsticks all along that was the path of Hurricane Hugo a month earlier – so sad. Went to our old place in Garden City, SC just below Myrtle Beach and walked our old beach that held so many memories on those millions of grains of sand and the condo on the inlet side and remember I just was not hungry that evening – which was a first.

Wynward Harbor marina was built back in the next several months, with floating concrete docks, a much bigger restaurant and numerous changes in the future. That is another story – but the people of Charlotte and the Carolina’s built back stronger than ever – just like those aged and beautiful wooden docks were replaced with the sturdier floating concrete docks.

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