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Hugo Remnants Suprise West Virginia Before It Chugs North With AM-Hugo, Bjt

September 22, 1989

Undated (AP) _ The remnants of Hurricane Hugo made a surprise sweep through West Virginia on Friday, downing power and telephone lines, snapping trees and causing flooding before fizzling and meandering toward Ohio.

″There’s basically nothing left of him,″ said weather service meteorologist Alan Reznek in Charleston, W.Va. ″His punch is gone.″

The center of the storm advanced farther westward than expected, targeting eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and western New York before it was expected to wear itself out in Canada. It was moving to the north at 30 mph.

Charleston, S.C., got the full brunt of Hugo, which wrecked a string of Caribbean resort islands beginning early Sunday. There were 20 confirmed deaths in the Caribbean, but an official on Puerto Rico said the death toll for the region was 26 people. About 50,000 people are homeless.

Ten of the 11 U.S. deaths were in South Carolina. Eight died in counties surrounding Charleston and one in the Columbia area, said Warren Hardy of the state’s Office of Emergency Preparedness. In North Carolina, a 6-month-old baby was killed in Union County when a tree fell on a house.

A hurricane is a heat engine fueled by warm, moist air over open oceans. When these giant storms hit land, they lose their wallop, although they can still manage considerable bluster.

Hugo was downgraded into a tropical storm at 6 a.m. and decayed more as it went inland, but places in its path could expect several inches of rain and high winds. By 6 p.m., Hugo had lost the characteristics of a tropical storm, although the weather system featured maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and torrential rains.

Its last location was just west of Pittsburgh, Pa., at latitude 40.5 degrees north and longitude 81 degrees west. Officials said no further tracking would be done.

Earlier, Hugo was expected to skirt West Virginia. But communities in the southern part of the state instead were lashed by fierce winds and inundated with water.

″It’s blowing 45 or 50 miles an hour,″ said Fred Kitts, of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department in Princeton. ″We’ve had trees fall on houses, cars, trailers. There are power lines everywhere.″

Heavy rains brought rapidly rising water, which forced some evacuations Friday in the Oakvale area of Mercer County, said officials with the county’s emergency services. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

At 4 p.m. EDT, the weather service said the center of the rapidly weakening storm had moved out of West Virginia into southeastern Ohio. Bob Sheets, director of the National Hurricane Center, said the storm was expected to pass through eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania late Friday or early Saturday.

The weather service issued a small stream and urban flood warning Friday evening for Cuyahoga and Medina counties in northeast Ohio. About 2 1/2 inches of rain fell in Medina during a 90-minute period late Friday afternoon.

An outer band of the tropical storm hit Virginia’s western half earlier Friday, knocking down power lines and trees with winds gusting as high as 81 mph and forcing residents in low-lying areas of several counties to evacuate.

But the eye of the storm swept through the narrowest part of the state - entering in Washington County and exiting in Tazwell County - and dumped far less rain than anticipated. Five to 10 inches of rain was expected in areas where 3 inches or less fell.

″It passed a lot farther west than we thought it would and it didn’t stay here too long,″ said Janet Clements, spokeswoman for the state Department of Emergency Services. No serious injuries were reported.

In Washington, government agencies, schools, transit officials and property owners, preparing for the worst, were relieved when the brunt of the storm missed the nation’s capital.

In New York City, rain and blustery winds were the biggest concern. The threat of high tides and flooding and closed down the Statue of Liberty’s island.

Emergency management coordinators in New Jersey also expected the the worst from Hugo, but instead saw only some rainstorms and gusty winds.

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