MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The 1954 Atlantic hurricane season was a little above average with 16 storms, 3 of which were major hurricanes (Carol, Edna, and Hazel). Hurricane Hazel was the final major hurricane of the season and was both the deadliest and the costliest.

Oct. 5 was the first sign of tropical activity. Located 50 miles east of Grenada, a tropical wave was spotted and later investigated by the Hurricane Hunters. The initial report stated the system already had Category 2 level winds of 100 mph, but those were later reduced to 65 mph because the pressure of the system was too high to be consistent with a Category 2 hurricane.

A system moved over Grenada and continued its trek through the Caribbean Sea where it got hurricane status. From Oct. 5-9, Hurricane Hazel grew in intensity. Hazel reached major hurricane status on Oct. 9 with winds of 115 mph. Still out to sea, Hurricane Hazel then makes a sudden shift. An upper-level, low-pressure system was situated in the Western Caribbean and forced Hazel to the north.

On Oct. 12, Hazel continued on its northbound track where it made its second landfall. At 5 a.m., Hazel made landfall along the Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti as a monster Category 3 hurricane. The destruction in Haiti was catastrophic. It is estimated more than 400 people lost their lives, and that number could have been as high as 1,000 people.

The largest town in the area, Aux Cayes, reported 200 deaths alone. Most of the fatalities were due to flash flooding. The hurricane also demolished 40% of the coffee trees which impacted the country’s economy for years. Hazel also made another landfall in Haiti, this time on the northwestern side of the country.

Over in the United States, in the deep south, there was a massive trough over the Mississippi Valley. Troughs are associated with low-pressure centers which draw air in. Strengthening low-pressure centers furiously pull air in toward the center, this was enough to pull Hazel slightly to the northwest, toward the U.S.

Before arriving, Hurricane Hazel also made landfall in the Bahamas. This happened around 10 a.m. on Oct. 13. Most of the Bahamas was left unscathed, but it was a direct hit in Inagua, where six people lost their lives.

Hazel’s final landfall would be near the border of North and South Carolina but officially made landfall at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 15 in Calabash, North Carolina.

A ship off the South Carolina coast reported a barometric pressure of 938 millibars and at landfall winds were 130 mph — Category 4 status.

In the Carolinas, hundreds of buildings were destroyed, including 80% of oceanfront property. Only two of 275 homes were left in Garden City Beach. There was a storm surge in North Carolina of over 18 feet, and a surge in South Carolina of over 14.5 feet.

Impacts of storm surge were maximized because landfall coincided with lunar high tide. Wind gusts reported include 110 mph in Fayetteville, 90 mph in Raleigh, and 106 mph in Myrtle Beach.

North Carolina counties, Robbins and Carthage saw 11.3 and 9.7 inches of rain, respectively. Hazel actually ended a severe drought in the Carolinas.

Continuing to the north, Hazel was sometimes moving as fast as 55 mph and eventually merged with a cold front. Hazel continued to bring wind and rain to the mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Canada. Gusts more than 100 mph were reported in Virginia and New York. Twelve people were killed in Virginia and 18,000 buildings were damaged. In total, 95 people were killed in the United States.

In Canada, Hazel added inches of rainfall to an already wet year. Hazel dropped more than eight inches of rain in the greater Toronto area and this overwhelmed rivers and creeks. Some river levels rose by over 20 feet. More than 50 bridges were wiped out along with major railroads and highways. 81 people were killed in Canada, mostly from flooding, making Hurricane Hazel the fifth deadliest hurricane to ever strike Canada.