A look back at Hurricane Hazel

When it comes to hurricane intensity in North Carolina, there is one storm by which all are measured- and no, it isn’t Hurricane Floyd. It’s a storm called Hazel. The story of Hurricane Hazel is one of the most unusual in our state’s history. Whereas most hurricanes strike in August or September, Hazel made landfall near Calabash on October 15, 1954. With winds approaching 145 mph, Hazel was the only storm to officially make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in our state. The landfall position placed eastern North Carolina under the dangerous right front quadrant of the storm, where the highest winds and storm surge occur. Hazel produced a surge of 18 feet in the Cape Fear area, a record that still stands. Hazel leveled $163 million in damage in the Carolinas, and killed 19 NC residents. The storm was moving so quickly, it outpaced its collapse rate. As a result, wind gusts over 100 mph were reported as far north as New York. As Hazel weakened, the remnant circulation pushed into Canada, causing record floods. Toronto residents consider Hazel to be one of their worst natural disasters. It’s been 60 years since Hazel’s landfall, and in all that time, no local storm has matched her intensity. Here’s hoping we keep it that way.

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