CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As we head through the heart of the 2017 hurricane season, we take a look back at some of the strongest tropical systems to impact the Charlotte area.
5. Hurricane Cleo
Hurricane Cleo formed east of Barbados on Aug. 21, 1964. With winds up to 155 mph, this category 4 storm quickly skirted across the Caribbean and up the eastern coast of Florida. Cleo produced strong, damaging wind and widespread heavy rain and flooding across the Carolinas. Three tornadoes were also reported in North Carolina. Cleo dissipated on Sept. 5, 1964, making it one of the longest-lived storms of the 1964 Atlantic season.
In total, Cleo created $187 million in damages across the Caribbean and eastern United States, and lead to 156 fatalities. In Charlotte, the heavy rain and localized flooding were the biggest impacts, with a three-day rainfall total reaching 1.80 inches.
4. Hurricane Gracie
On Sept. 20, 1959, an area of thunderstorms rapidly developed near the Lesser Antilles, intensifying into a hurricane by September 22. Gracie was the seventh named storm of the 1959 Atlantic season, staying over water for the first few days. It strengthened into a category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds up to 140 mph.
Storm surge flooding was a major issue along the Carolina coastline, with Charleston recording its’ highest tide in nearly 20 years. Locally in Charlotte, Gracie brought a well-welcomed 4.89 inches of rain to the city. Much of the Appalachians were dealing with a significant drought after the summer of 1959, and Gracie’s rainfall brought relief for some.
3. Hurricane David
Hurricane David developed on Aug. 27, 1979, near the Lesser Antilles. By August 30, David was a category 5 hurricane, a powerful storm bringing over 20 inches of rain to the island of Puerto Rico.
After passing through the Caribbean, David traveled up the eastern coast of Florida, crossing over land near Savannah, Georgia. The center of David passed right through eastern Mecklenburg County, dumping 3.28 inches of rain in Charlotte. It then passed through Cabarrus and Rowan counties bringing strong wind and heavy rain. David dissipated by Sept. 8 after causing $1.54 billion in damages across the Caribbean and United States.
2. Hurricane Two
A tropical storm developed east of the Lesser Antilles on Aug. 23, 1949, a storm that would later become Hurricane Two a few days later. This strong storm impacted the Bahamas, reaching to a category 4 status with wind speeds up to 130 mph.
By the time it crossed through the center of Florida, Two had weakened significantly when it impacted the Carolinas. In Charlotte, Two brought a few days of very strong wind, heavy rain and localized flooding. In just one day, Hurricane Two brought 2.38 inches of rain to Charlotte.
It wasn’t until 1953 that the National Hurricane Center started associating names to hurricanes.
1. Hurricane Hugo
Hurricane Hugo to this day is still one of the strongest tropical systems to impact not just Charlotte, but the Carolina coastline.
Starting on Sept. 10, 1989, Hugo developed off the African coast. Hugo strengthened to category 3 status by the time it made landfall near Puerto Rico. It continued to strengthen as it stayed parallel to the Florida coast, reaching to a category 4 as it made landfall near Charleston, South Carolina. The center of Hugo crossed right through Chester, York and Mecklenburg counties as a strong tropical storm. In one day, Charlotte recorded 2.92 inches of rain, with a storm total of 3.61 inches due to Hugo. To this day, Sept.1989 is still one of the wettest Septembers on record.
Hugo eventually dissipated by Sept. 25, but the damage left behind was extensive. In total, Hugo left $10 billion in damages, including $1 billion in North Carolina alone. Wind gusts in Charlotte topped 87 mph, causing the broadcasting tower at WSOC-TV to crash into the building.
Hugo was eventually a retired name by the National Weather Service.
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