Hurricane Isabel - 2003
Isabel intensified rapidly and remained at Category 5 levels for over 30 hours. Sustained winds were recorded at 160 mph with gusts reaching 234 mph. Isabel weakened as it made landfall along the outer banks as a Category 2, but grew in overall size. The final death toll was 16 and damages were estimated at $3.37 billion.
Hurricane Floyd - 1999
Hurricane Floyd was especially devastating not for its wind speed but for the torrential rains that accompanied it. Over 3 million people were forced to leave their homes, making Floyd the largest peacetime evacuation in history. Total rainfall was recorded at approximately 30 inches, which devastated the large farms in rural North Carolina. Floyd ranks third all-time in total damages. The official estimate is $4.5 billion, but some estimates run as high as $6 billion.
Hurricane Fran - 1996
With winds exceeding 115 mph at the time of landfall, Hurricane Fran became the most powerful hurricane of the 1996 season. Damages were estimated at $3.2 billion at the time but are even higher today. North Carolina was hit especially hard in 1996, with Fran making landfall just two months after Hurricane Bertha hit Wilmington, N.C., killing 12 and causing $275 million in damages.
Hurricane Hugo - 1989
Ranking second all-time in terms of estimated damages at $7 billion, Hurricane Hugo came ashore in September 1989 with a vengeance. Hugo's winds were measured at 135 mph when it made landfall in Charleston, S.C. A Category 4 at landfall, Hugo weakened for the second time after the warm waters of the Gulf Stream intensified Hugo's fury to a maximum of 160 mph winds at Category 5. The aftermath of Hugo saw a tightening of building codes and an increased level of preparedness in South Carolina.
Hurricane Hazel - 1954
Hazel was a Category 4 hurricane when it made landfall in 1954, keeping its winds at hurricane force as far inland as Canada. Hazel came ashore near the North Carolina/ South Carolina border, bringing with it a record 18 foot storm surge to the town of Calabash, N.C. Wind gusts of 150 mph were felt in Holden Beach, Calabash and Little River, while 100 mph gusts carried much farther inland. Hazel was responsible for over 600 deaths and damages in excess of $381 million (1953 U.S. dollars). Hazel was just one of eight major hurricanes to hit the Carolinas in the 1950s, leading many to believe there was a cycle involved.