WBOC's 65th Anniversary - Hurricane Hazel Hits Crisfield in 1954 - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

WBOC's 65th Anniversary - Hurricane Hazel Hits Crisfield in 1954

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This archival photo shows downtown Crisfield after Hurricane Hazel passed through it on Oct. 15, 1954. This archival photo shows downtown Crisfield after Hurricane Hazel passed through it on Oct. 15, 1954.

We are continuing our journey on what it was like on Delmarva 65 years ago, to commemorate WBOC's 65th anniversary as a television station.

CRISFIELD, Md.- On Oct. 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel forever changed the City of Crisfield.

Hurricane Hazel made landfall along the North and South Carolina border as a Category 4 Hurricane with 140 mph winds. It then traveled north up the Atlantic coast. 

Because of the storm blew in so fast, the U.S. was not prepared as it. 

Kim Lawson, a long-time Crisfield resident, said, "All of the sudden you go to bed and the winds are coming up overnight."

Lawson was just 5-years-old when Hazel disrupted life on Delmarva. His home was near the Crisfield Municipal Airport.

"I can remember sitting on the dining room table as the winds raged and the two hangers imploded. The side walls blew down. The roof collapsed on both of those airplanes," said Lawson.

That’s just what he saw during the storm. There was far more damage closer to town. 

"Buildings, in this lower end of town, near the water, that were affected with roofs being ripped off and their manufacturing capability or packaging capability to really be turned upside down a number of weeks after that," Lawson said. 

It was not the winds or the rain, but the storm surge, or the higher amounts of water being pushed into the Chesapeake Bay, that had the biggest impact. 

"All of the boats in Jenkins Creek, work boats that would go out crabbing, oystering, and things like that were up on the marsh,” says Lawson.

Lawson also says that the timing of Hazel's arrival couldn't have been worse, because a lot of the boats had been damaged.

"October would've been a big time in the harvest, even then, the later months of crabs," he said. 

Lawson says that in the 1950's there were 400 watermen in the Crisfield area; today that number has dwindled to 100.

While Hazel didn't directly hit Delmarva, Lawson said it still left a good reminder that, "When those big ones comes... Good Lord help us.... we're a low-lying area and most of Somerset County, 67% of the entire county, is within critical areas designation."

Maybe if it wasn't for Hazel, those airplane hangers would still be here today.

Now, just a field of trees takes the place of those hangers.

One thing is certain: Hazel's trail of destruction forever changed Crisfield and Delmarva, with newspaper headlines reading 'Millions of Dollars in Damage' and 'Somerset County Hit Hard' for months to follow.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hazel was the worst hurricane of 1954 as it caused more than $281 million in damage and was responsible for 95 deaths.

This archival photo shows the damage caused by Hurricane Hazel, which hit Crisfield, Md., on Oct. 15, 1954.

 

This archival photo shows the damage caused by Hurricane Hazel, which hit Crisfield, Md., on Oct. 15, 1954.

 

 

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