Hurricane Hazel hit the Grand Strand 65 years ago today on October 15, 1954. Renowned Myrtle Beach photographer Jack Thompson was there when the Category 4 storm made landfall.
“It was calamity in Myrtle Beach,” he recalls. “Everybody was rushing to shelters in the schools, the grammar school, which is now the post office.”
Jack Thompson has vibrant memories of the October day in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel brought 140 mph sustained winds to Myrtle Beach.
“The radio station was off the air, so the military from the air base, the army air base, were going up with loud speakers on top of their trucks, announcing the fact that the hurricane had taken a right turn and had decided to visit Myrtle Beach,” said Thompson.
In fact, Thompson was a newlywed, and got married the day before, on the 14th of October.
“That is a secret that I’ve seldom ever told,” he laughed.
He and his sweetheart were enjoying their honeymoon on the 28th floor of what was then the Welcome Inn across from the Gay Dolphin when there was a knock at the door.
“I slipped out of the bed, and opened the door, and here is a military man in a wet poncho and a helmet… you have to come with me,” said Thompson.
The Army had arrived to evacuate everyone to the grammar school in Myrtle Beach, which is now the Myrtle Beach Post Office.
“On the way back, there was tremendous wind storm,” he said.
At 16 years old, Thompson had just started his photography career and traveled down to the 2nd Avenue Pier to capture Hazel’s wrath.
“A huge wave, I mean I would say, must’ve been 20 feet high, rolled in over the pier, and rolled in over the little fish house and broke right down on the little fish house where upon the fish house disappeared,” he remembers.
Thompson says the negatives from the photos he took when Hazel was here haven’t left his shelves in nearly decades, until today.