COPY-Charlotte remembers Hurricane Hugo - | WBTV Charlotte

COPY-Charlotte remembers Hurricane Hugo

Rushing 85 mile an hour winds paralyzed the Carolinas largest city. Hurricane Hugo's sneak attack lasted for just a few hours, but a full recovery would take years.

Several times a day came the progress reports. Local government's point man with the chore of easing the fear and frustration was former Assistant City Manager Don Steger.

"We didn't know that 95 percent of the power in this community was out," he recalls. "We didn't know most streets were impassable, but we had a strategy and it was in our plan."

As the will and resolve of an aching city was stretched, expressive headlines were loud, and bold. Telling photos and caption lines revealed the extreme flash points of damage.

Johnnie Kalasountes of Temple Lane in East Charlotte felt the pain, landed in print, but credits people up and down her street for acts of kindness and survival.

She said, "We all worked together. We have good neighbors and we all look after each other. We had about 18 or 20 trees that fell across the street."

Rob Combs of Duke Energy now heads up the companies storm response team for the Carolinas. He remembers 25 years ago, having all hands on deck meant importing more workers from other parts of the country.

"We brought in an additional three thousand off system line resources to support us during the storm," Combs said.

Public responders like Fire Chief Jon Hannan were not immune from the personal hardships. He remembers, "My house, it was ten days before I got power."

However, Hannan was among the hundreds who had to answer the call. "I was a captain on Engine 5, and we spent most of the morning trying to get roads open. So we could get to people"

Local leaders say it was people helping their neighbors that allowed the city to pull through.

Don Steger offers this observation, "Our compassion shown through like a bright light during that first seven or eight days in our response to Hugo. As government officials, we had little to do with that, it was the character of this community."

One more important lesson came from the experience in 1989. Not a single life was lost during this city's battle with an intense hurricane named Hugo.

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