Hugo - A look back at the region's only tropical storm

Published: Sep. 22, 2019 at 1:24 PM EDT
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To this day, Hugo remains the only system in modern history to actually move through Southwest Virginia as a Tropical Storm.

Hugo, a strong Category 4 hurricane, made landfall in South Carolina around midnight September 22, 1989, packing winds of more than 130 MPH.

Because of its rapid movement of around 40 MPH, Hugo accelerated inland after landfall during the early morning of September 22, then moved into western Virginia as a tropical storm around midday.


Due to the fast-moving system, sustained winds of around 40 MPH were experienced over much of Southwest Virginia. In the higher elevations, gusts reached nearly 80 MPH as the northeast quadrant of the storm passed through.

One of the highest wind gusts was in Bath County at 81 MPH.

While no tornadoes were confirmed, thousands of trees were taken down, with structural damage to buildings. Power was out for weeks due to the magnitude of the storm damage. Schools were closed for more than a week in some areas.

Late-season corn crops were also leveled due to the strong winds.


Rainfall was less than a typical tropical system because the storm was moving through so quickly. Even then, strong upslope southeast flow helped to squeeze out heavy bands of rain along the Blue Ridge where around 6 inches of rain caused flooding along a few of the area rivers.

The worst flooding occurred along the New River as a result. The New River at Radford crested at 7 feet above flood stage and 11 feet above flood stage in Giles County.

Hugo resulted in 7 fatalities in Virginia along with 60 million dollars in property damage. Most of that occurred in Carroll and Grayson counties, where the center of the storm moved through.

Copyright 2019/WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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