Hurricane Hazel, October 15, 1954

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  • Created on September 7, 2020
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  • Hurricane Hazel was the deadliest and costliest hurricane of the 1954 hurricane season (Figure 1) and is the strongest and only Category 4 hurricane to ever hit the North Carolina coast. The first indication that a tropical cyclone had formed came on October 5, 1954 about 50 miles east of the island of Grenada in the Windward Islands. Hazel moved westward over the Caribbean Sea through October 8 before sharply turning northward under the influence of an upper level low that was situated over the western Caribbean Sea. By October 9, Hazel had intensified into a powerful Category 4 storm with maximum winds of 135 mph. Between October 9th and 12th Hurricane Hazel moved northward and then north-northeastward crossing western Haiti on October 11 leaving a death toll estimated to be between 400 and 1,000. As a result of the passage over Haiti, the maximum winds diminished to 100 mph, but after clearing Haiti, Hazel was once again over warm tropical waters and began to strengthen.

    Hazel gradually turned back northward passing over the southeastern Bahamas on October 13, then turned more northwestward on the 14th when hurricane hunter planes found Hazel’s maximum winds had increased to 150 mph with the center now moving at a rapid 30 mph in response to a strong upper level trough moving eastward over the Mississippi Valley. Landfall occurred on the North Carolina/South Carolina border (Figure 2) on the morning of October 15th as the system was starting to transition into an extra-tropical storm.
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