Hurricane Matthew is expected to pass Myrtle Beach 50 to 100 miles offshore on Saturday as a Category 1 storm, according to the latest forecast. The area is bracing for heavy rains and possible flooding, winds between 40 and 60 miles per hour, and 3-5 foot storm surges.
Here’s how it compares to the worst storms in the history of Myrtle Beach:
1954 Hurricane Hazel
When Hurricane Hazel made landfall near 62 years ago this month, it took most of the Grand Strand with it. A newspaper report at the time described the storm as “stomping through like an enraged Amazon (…) escorted inland by huge tidal waves that reached as high as 50 feet.”
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A Category 4 storm with winds of 140 miles per hour, Hazel produced an 18-foot storm surge, one of the highest ever to batter the Carolinas. Most of the towns on the Grand Strand and surrounding areas were leveled. Newspaper reports at the time said that only two houses were left standing on Pawleys Island’s north end.
It was the strongest storm ever to hit North Carolina, where 19 people lost their lives.
1989 Hurricane Hugo
Hurricane Hugo made landfall 90 miles south of Myrtle Beach in Charleston on September 21, 1989. The coast was slammed with 85-miles-per-hour winds, but the storm surge was more destructive. In some places, the Grand Strand was struck with 12-foot-high walls of water. Almost every business along the coast suffered damage or was destroyed. On Pawley’s Island, at least 14 homes were washed away according to reports at the time. Three piers in the Myrtle Beach area disappeared.
Hugo caused 27 fatalities in South Carolina, left nearly 100,000 homeless, and caused $10 billion in damages. At the time, it was the costliest hurricane ever recorded.
1996 Hurricane Fran
The storm made landfall just southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina on September 5, 1996 with sustained winds of 115 miles per hour. Along with 70 miles per hour wind gusts, torrential rains flooded parts of the Grand Strand and Pee Dee with up to 10 inches of water in some areas. The damage included downed power lines, torn-up trees and flooded highways. This time, coastal residents quickly heeded warnings to evacuate.
"Folks deserted the place this time because they remember Hugo," Conway High School principal David Pugh said at the time. "Folks know how to cope with hurricanes down here. They are very respectful of them."
1999 Hurricane Floyd
At nearly 600 miles wide, Hurricane Floyd was one of the largest storms ever to come out of the Atlantic Ocean. Authorities evacuated more than 2.6 million people along the southeast – at the time, the largest peacetime evacuation in U.S. history. Hurricane Floyd made landfall 60 miles north of Myrtle Beach near Cape Fear, North Carolina on September 16, 1999. When it entered the Carolinas it was a Category 2 storm with winds near 105 miles per hour. The storm knocked out power, flooded streets and produced tornadoes in its wake.
Some areas of Horry County received up to 20 inches of rain, with Myrtle Beach International Airport recording 16.6 inches. The torrential rains that came with Hurricane Floyd led to the worst flooding in history for the Waccamaw River in Conway.
2004 Hurricane Charley
Hurricane Charley passed through southwestern Florida as a powerful Category 4, weakening as it approached the Carolinas. Gov. Mark Sanford ordered evacuations of coastal areas, and about 180,000 people evacuated the Grand Strand. Charley made landfall just south of Georgtetown, at Cape Romain, as a Category 1 hurricane on August 15, 2004. It made its final landfall near north Myrtle Beach with winds of up to 75 miles per hour. The storm led to $30 million in hotel profit loss in Myrtle Beach, mainly along Route 17, but no serious damages or injuries. "Mother Nature has spared us," Gov. Mark Sanford said during a visit to Conway the day after the storm.