On the night of September 21, 1989, as Hurricane Hugo was approaching the U.S. East Coast, it had already left a devastating path through the Caribbean. Computer models of the period, still relatively basic, projected the storm’s landfall to be somewhere along the coast of the Carolinas. By the time the storm hit Charleston, SC there had been sufficient notice for preparations to be undertaken. But nothing prepared Charleston for the devastation that struck just after midnight. It would prove to be the worst storm in the region’s history.
“Let the Hurricane Roar”, focuses primarily on the extraordinary efforts of AT&T employees throughout Hurricane Hugo, keeping telephone service running non-stop, police and hospitals remaining connected without interruption. This, despite near-universal power outages throughout the city. Continuous phone service also provided the only outside connection possible for citizens trapped alone in the dark throughout the six hour, all-night ordeal.
Additionally, the film, narrated by Bob Edwards of NPR, gives a brief but vivid and dramatic view of the storm in all its fury, as well as the aftermath, showing a city knocked down and tossed about like the contents of a toy box. The rebuilding of Charleston would take years of effort, requiring more federal dollars than had ever before been allocated to a disaster area.
This documentary captures a moment in the nation’s history when technology was finally becoming able to greatly help in preparing for impending disaster. Before the Internet, cellphones or even NEXRAD would come into our daily lives, having access to a working landline telephone was the vital connection in times of emergency. “Let the Hurricane Roar” reminds us of that.