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Remembering Hugo: 'Cowering like a dog before a harsh master'

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A March study from Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science’s Hurricane Activity Report predicts that 2014 will be “below-average probability” for hurricanes to make landfall on the U.S. coastline. That was good news for Clarendon residents who remember the wallop the area took when Hurricane Hugo blew through in excess of 135 mph more than two decades ago. On Sept. 22, 1989, Hugo pointed its wicked arrow at Clarendon County and struck a bull’s eye with a terror that has never been duplicated. And almost no one was ready for the storm or its aftermath. Former Clarendon Memorial Hospital CEO Ed Frye had only moved to Manning a few weeks before the storm hit, and the hospital did not discharge many patients, thinking a temporary loss of power would be the storm’s worst effect. Power was lost about 2 or 3 a.m., and Frye and his wife took cover in their hallway at home with some mattresses and a portable radio. “We woke up about 6:30 with daylight and walked outside,” he said. “It looked like someone had dropped a bomb. I got in the car to come over to check on the hospital. There were a lot of people hanging around because people just didn’t know where to go.” Frye said the hospital treated patients for broken bones and stitches, mainly from debris removal and clean-up.

“And Hugo didn’t stop children from being born,” he said. “We birthed a couple of babies out in the woods. Some women were brought in to us, but we had to take some doctors out to them because they just couldn’t get to the hospital.” One doctor who continued delivering babies throughout the storm was Dr. Edward Keith. “When the eye passed over, in fact,” Keith said of one delivery. “The hospital had a lot of glass windows in the labor and delivery room. Most had blown out, and wind and rain was blowing in the windows. I was the only doctor in the hospital the night the storm hit.” Lowonder Whack said her nephew, Reggie Ragins, was born the day before Hugo; her niece, Toyeisha Williams, was one of the babies born during the storm. “It was soon after the eye of the storm started passing over Clarendon Memorial Hospital,” she said. “I will never forget thinking about how the hospital would collapse with everyone inside, but we made it.” Keith said work at the hospital was simply “chaos” the days after the storm. “The thing I remember most are the chainsaw injuries,” he said. “We had a lot of those. We had a lot of employees that couldn’t get to the hospital to work, but we pulled through as best we could.” Manninglive.com will post more from our Hugo Special Section, published in the Sept. 4 edition of The Manning Times, throughout the week, as well as exclusive web content. Send your Hugo memories and pictures to editorial@manninglive.com to be featured on the website during September.

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