25th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo

In the early morning hours of September 22, 1989, Hurricane Hugo wreaked havoc around Davidson, after causing significant damage in the Caribbean and coastal South Carolina. The college community was lucky, for the most part – although the storm felled over 230 trees and damaged the roofs of four dormitories, as well as the porch of the President’s House, there were no injuries and buildings were able to be repaired. As Davidson student Jim Leach commented in the October 11, 1989 issue of The Davidsonian, “I was really happy that I have a home to go to for fall break… I feel sorry for the people in Charleston.”

Students with the Davidson College historical marker on campus, behind them are multiple broken branches hanging and on the ground, illustrating the amount of debris on September 22, 1989.

Students with the Davidson College historical marker on front campus, illustrating the amount of debris on September 22, 1989.

A man with a hardhat in a lift using a chainsaw to cut frayed branches from a tree that bent halfway up the tree next to one of the dorms

A damaged tree near Dormitory Row.

While fortunate that no lives were lost, Mecklenburg County declared a state of emergency and some homes in Davidson and the surrounding towns were without power for over a week. The cost of replacing the downed trees on campus was estimated at $400,000, and the cost alone was not the most severe blow – the October 1989 issue of Campus Chronicle quoted director of facilities planning Grover Meetze as saying, “You cannot express in tangible terms what was lost. Dollars and cents just won’t do it. Everyone had special trees around campus, and the sight of them all lying on the ground at once was powerful.”

A tree has been uprrooted with around 13 feet in diameter of dirt with it, a student relaxes, feet up against the roots of the upturned tree.

A student relaxes, feet up against the roots of an upturned tree.

Students gathered near the college well with fallen trees behind them and broken branches all around

Students gather near the college well.

Freshman Jay Spiegel helping clear downed trees near the main entrance to the college.

Freshman Jay Spiegel helps clear downed trees near the main entrance to the college.

The damage from Hurricane Hugo was such that classes on the 22nd were canceled, a rare event at Davidson – as The Davidsonian commented, “Students will forever remember the unexpected holiday from classes.” Students, staff, and faculty worked together to help clear debris from campus, and the food service staff worked overtime to make sure students were fed. Then College President John Wells Kuykendall called the volunteer clean-up effort “the epitome of the Davidson spirit.”

President Kuykendall assisted with the campus clean-up all day on Friday, September 22nd, 1989. He is pictured here carrying branches

President Kuykendall assisted with the campus clean-up all day on Friday, September 22nd, 1989.

Hilary Coman, Hilary Bridgers, and Blaine John (all Class of 1992), spending their day off from classes helping clean the campus by dragging broken branches

Hilary Coman, Hilary Bridgers, and Blaine John (all Class of 1992), spending their day off from classes helping clean the campus.

Students walk/sit on the trunk of a felled tree on campus.

Students walk on the trunk of a felled tree on campus.

 

 

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