Remembering Hazel: Winds for the Record Books
"A fallen tree crushes a car in Chapel Hill." Roland Giduz. North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, UNC Chapel Hill.
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, . 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.
Memories of Hazel, including many from the AccuWeather Facebook fan page:
AccuWeather.com 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 so 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 power ... no organ music. LOL!
AccuWeather.com 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 neighborhood 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].
I was about 5 at the time. I lived (and am still close to) a little place in Virginia called Lewisetta (elev: 2ft). We had an old tomatto canning down the street from our house with some summer worker "Shanties" around it. I remember seeing chicken standing on a kitchen table and they were picking their feet up.
Our house was about 200 feet off the Potomac and we tied a skiff to the back porch. The house is still there and the tide still comes in. It broke my heart to sell it when my mother had to go in a home. I was born there in a bedroom that was smaller than my present master bath.
Thanks for letting me share.
My friend's father drove up and about 6 kids, that I knew, jumped in his car. My parents told me not to get in a car of anyone I didn't know. I knew my friend's mother, but I had never met or saw my friend's father. After he leaned towards me yelling "get in, get in" I began backing away from the car. They drove off.
By now the wind was almost blowing me down. I lived only 1 mile from the school, so I turned and started my walk home. Now comes the part I can vividly remember to this day and still can't believe I survived the "walk" home. My entire walk home had my facing the wind. I do not exaggerate when I say I had to lean about 45 degrees forward to keep from being blown backwards. I carried my kid's style lunchbox in my right hand, and my right arm was blown directly behind my body in a position parallel to the road. It was pure human survival instincts that kept me moving forward with a 45 degree lean. I had already started raining hard. Occasionally the wind, which was steady a high percentage of the time, would suddenly drop and I would fall forward on my hands and knees. By the time I struggled into my yard, I was dead tired and soaked wet.
My mother must have been frantically looking out the window at the direction of the school. She ran out in the yard, picked me up and ran back into the house. My mother's emotions kept changing from pride to anger. She was so angry with me for not getting in the car of my friend's father. But she was so proud of me for not getting in the car of my friend's father. She knew that I didn't know him.
I don't remember any time frame for my struggle to go home from school - only one mile. I'm guessing a 20 minute run/walk that I did everyday took me well over an hour. I remember hearing loud noises that sounded like metal trash can being blown past me on the paved road and other loud noises I couldn't recognize. But I wasn't afraid while struggling on my "walk" home. It was only when my mother carried me inside our house that I began to cry. I will NEVER forget that experience with the '54 Hurricane Hazel. I was 6 then and now I'm 64.