Storeroom Stories: Canned Water


Twenty-five years ago this month, Hurricane Hugo, a strong category four storm, smashed ashore just northeast of Charleston on September 21, 1989. It remains the worst recorded hurricane in the state’s history.

With damaging winds extending 140 miles out from its eye, Hugo’s outer edge began battering Charleston by midevening. By midnight, however, harbor buoys were recording sustained winds of 105 miles-per-hour, gusts over 130, and a storm surge seventeen feet above normal high tide. In addition, Hugo spawned numerous tornados, torrential rainfall, and unprecedented flooding. Homes dislodged from their foundations. Vessels from the City Marina broke loose and drifted into downtown streets and houses. Bridges bent and buckled. Even the National Weather Service’s building, located at the Charleston Air Force base, had its roof blown off.

Statewide damages from Hugo were in the billions of dollars. Out of the approximately 97,000 homes damaged, some 5,000 were obliterated. Hugo also caused a “forestry disaster,” and, according to a 1989 local news documentary, downed enough trees to “rebuild the City of Charleston forty times over.” Twenty-six South Carolinians perished.

Canned Water
Anheuser-Bush Regional Bottling Plant
Jacksonville, FL

After the storm, thousands of businesses, civic groups and volunteers nationwide rushed to aid South Carolina’s stricken Lowcountry; providing essential supplies such as food, shelter, and, most importantly, potable water. The Anheuser-Busch brewing company, for example, being in a “unique position to produce and ship large quantities of drinking water,” utilized its southern-based bottling plants and distributors to can and deliver massive amounts of clean water to the Charleston area.

About Storeroom Stories

Founded in 1773, The Charleston Museum is, in fact, America’s first. Needless to say, over the centuries the Museum has acquired many incredible artifacts. A myriad of items exemplifying the rich history of South Carolina, the Lowcountry, and Charleston itself are on display permanently. However, one must also wonder about the artifacts not typically displayed in our formal galleries. Furthermore, with such a magnificent, vast collection as well as an intelligent and passionate curatorial staff, The Charleston Museum has incredible resources. We would like to use these resources to share more with the public. Therefore, the Museum will now be offering a special monthly exhibit, titled Storeroom Stories, which highlights a specific and unique artifact, personally hand-picked by a curator to share with the public.

A “story” related to each item will be included along with its description, providing the viewer a unique and intimate perspective on each individual piece. This an incredible opportunity for the public to take a look into our collections as well as see some of the items that our curators are most excited about sharing with you! We invite you to keep up with Storeroom Stories via our website, blog, Facebook, or twitter account. Please come and take a peek into our storeroom, view some of the pieces our curators our most passionate about, and learn the story behind these incredibly historic items!