Friday, October 15, is the 67th anniversary of Hurricane Hazel, a Category 4 storm which severely damaged Myrtle Beach and much of the East Coast. Hazel pushed homes off foundations, destroyed piers, obliterated sand dunes and caused destruction and death from here to Canada. The storm made landfall near North Myrtle Beach shortly after 7:00 a.m., with winds of 134 miles per hour and a storm surge of 12 feet.
Locally, hundreds of buildings were destroyed, including 80 percent of waterfront dwellings in Myrtle Beach. In North Myrtle Beach, a three-story hotel and an 800 foot pier were washed out to sea. At Cherry Grove Beach, 75 residences were demolished, while at Pawleys Island, 40 homes were destroyed and numerous others were damaged. One death occurred in South Carolina. Here's how the National Weather Service described Hazel:
Hazel made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, close to the North Carolina/South Carolina state border, halfway between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington. The hurricane brought a storm surge of up to 18 feet to a large area of the coastline, producing severe coastal damage. Intensifying the damage was the fact that the hurricane coincided with the highest lunar tide of the year. Brunswick County suffered the heaviest damage, where most coastal dwellings were either completely destroyed or severely damaged.
In Long Beach (Oak Island), North Carolina, only five of the 357 buildings were left standing. As a result of the high storm surge, the low-lying sandy barrier islands were completely flooded. The official report from the Weather Bureau in Raleigh stated that as a result of Hazel, "all traces of civilization on the immediate waterfront between the state line and Cape Fear were practically annihilated." The December 1954 NOAA report on the hurricanes of the year states that "every pier in a distance of 170 miles of coastline was demolished."
As Hazel moved rapidly inland, its winds only slowly diminished with a gust to 110 mph reported at Fayetteville and 90 mph at the Raleigh-Durham Airport. Wind gusts near 100 mph were reported from numerous locations in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York as Hazel raced northward. Myrtle Beach reported a peak gust of 106 mph. Washington DC reported sustained winds to 78 mph. In New York City, a peak gust of 113 mph was recorded at the Battery at the south end of Manhattan.
Before striking the U.S., Hazel killed 469 people in Haiti and destroyed 40 percent of the coffee trees and 50 percent of the cacao crop on the island. Hazel then killed 19 people in North Carolina and another 76 elsewhere on the East Coast before striking Canada as an extratropical storm. The Canadian death toll was 81, mostly in Toronto. As a result of Hazel's damage and death, the name was retired from use for North Atlantic hurricanes.