Charlotteans remember Hurricane Hugo in the face of Irma

- As Hurricane Irma churns across the western Atlantic and towards the United States, residents along the Gulf and East coasts need to be on alert. App users click here.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Hurricane Irma had sustained winds of 185 MPH making it a powerful Category 5 Hurricane as it approaches the northeast Caribbean on its path towards the United States.

Charlotte city officials say they are continuously monitoring the situation with Irma, while people who have lived in the Charlotte area for a while probably think of Hurricane Hugo anytime they hear of the threat of a hurricane.

Hurricane Hugo happened 28 years ago, but it’s still fresh on many minds today.

This is some of the remaining stock from way back then. These actually believe it or not have been here since Hurricane Hugo,” said Gray Little of Little Hardware, pointing to a group of kerosene lanterns.

The lanterns are the only items left today from the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo at the hardware store near Uptown Charlotte.

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But the memory of the hurricane that hit Charleston and then made a path inland through Charlotte in September 1989 is burned into Little’s mind.

“As I’m coming into work, I see transformers popping with light poles going down,” said Little of his drive into the hardware store on South Mint Street from the Lower Steele Creek area during the storm.

“You could hear things hitting the side of the building rolling across the roof,” said Little.

“I remember streets like this one and all over town that really looked like a war zone,” said Tommy Lawing Jr. who was working at his property management company, T.R. Lawing Realty, Inc. in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood, in the days following Hurricane Hugo.

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“It was burned on my memory. I think it was such a shock to the system,” said Lawing.

The storm’s strong winds brought massive power outages and toppled trees in the Charlotte area.

“It was weeks and weeks before most people got the messes cleaned up,” said Little.

If Hugo happened today, Little says the response may be better, but one thing would remain the same--people helping people.

“I think they did a great job at that time but like I say, we’ve got quite a few more people. Charlotte’s spread out even more now, but I still think people would pull together, and make things work out well.”

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The following is the response we received from the City of Charlotte on preparations for Hurricane Irma:

At this point, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management is continually monitoring Irma’s activity, per regular updates received from our state partners (North Carolina Emergency Management) and the National Weather Service – Greenville/Spartanburg as it applies to our region.

Additionally, we are making internal preparations consistent with how we would pre-plan for any weather event or impending hazard. As Irma progresses and should we expect any impact to Charlotte or Mecklenburg County, we will inform the public and media accordingly.

As this is National Preparedness Month and noting that we are in the middle of hurricane season, let the current activity developing in the Atlantic serve as a reminder to: 1) Make a Plan 2) Build a Ready Kit and 3) Stay Informed. We encourage citizens to stay engaged by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter, where we provide continuous information for our community.

Lastly, for those folks who seek proactive measures to be self-prepared, the following link is a helpful guide for hurricane preparations:

The FOX 46 Weather Team is keeping a close eye on Irma, tracking the hurricane’s progress and potential impact on the Carolinas.

Be sure to follow FOX 46 Charlotte on Facebook and Twitter for the latest on Irma's track and intensity. Now is a good time to download the FOX 46 Weather App to receive instant alerts about the storm. You can also download the FOX 46 News App for breaking news alerts. 

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