Jan. 3, 2018: Snowstorm Grayson

A snowstorm that moved in from Florida and Georgia dumped 6-plus inches of snow on Summerville, Moncks Corner and Goose Creek. Both Dorchester and Berkeley counties ordered drivers off the streets during a curfew that lasted from 8 p.m. Jan. 2 to 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 3. Deep snow made many roads throughout the Lowcountry impassable. Main roads over bridges were closed due ice and dangerous driving conditions. Brief power outages were reported in some areas, but did not last long. Warming shelters opened for several days in both counties to assist people. Emergency crews responded to numerous minor crashes and slide-offs. No deaths were reported connected to the storm.

The National Weather Service recorded 5.3 inches of snow accumulation in Charleston, the highest accumulation recorded since Dec. 23, 1989, when Charleston saw a record 6 inches of snow.

The combination and snow and ice has S.C. Electric & Gas reporting 3,700 power outages statewide. -- Source: Post and Courier and Summerville Journal Scene.

Feb. 10, 1973: Snowstorm of the Century

Snow started falling on Saturday, Feb. 10, but it was the already frozen layer of ice on the ground that made travel so treacherous.

“The icy undercarpet began forming Friday evening and grew thicker through the night. Charlestonians slipped and slid on sidewalks and streets, and many bridges and highways became impassable. Many of those who stayed inside did so without power,” according to an article from the Feb. 11, 1973 edition of The News and Courier.

Thousands of residents were without power across South Carolina during the storm. The Charleston and Beaufort areas were hardest hit by ice, according to the newspaper.

The snowfall totals in Charleston beat every record on the books at the time: 2.1 inches at the airport on Dec. 15, 1943 and 3.9 inches made in the city in February 1899.

All told, 7.1 inches of snow fell in Charleston between Feb. 9-10, 1973.

March 2, 2018

A 2.3 magnitude earthquake rattled an otherwise quiet neighborhood in the early hours of March 2 near Sullivan Lane in Summerville, according to the United States Geological Survey. No damage was reported in the area around the epicenter located just south of Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site. USGS officials said less than a dozen people in the mostly forested area along the Ashley River reported feeling the small temblor that took place at 4:24 a.m. It’s not uncommon for the ground to rumble in the Summerville area. Quakes less than 2.0 magnitude usually are not felt, according to the USGS, but Friday’s 2.3 magnitude quake was the largest recorded in the last couple of years. A 1.4 magnitude earthquake shook the ground on Dec. 8, 2016 near the Golf Club at Wescott Plantation. On Oct. 1, 2016, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake was detected near Fort Dorchester Elementary School near Dorchester Road. That quake followed a 1.7 tremor recorded a day earlier just down the road near Wescott Park. The 7.3 magnitude quake that hit Charleston in 1886, however, remains the most powerful quake to ever hit the East Coast.

March 11, 1960: First snow in a long time

“March weather roared lion-like across the Lowcountry yesterday, bringing with it the area’s first measurable snowfall in 16 years,” The News and Courier reported on the morning of March 12, 1960. “It brought happy ‘snow madness’ to thousands of children who had never seen snow and created highway traffic hazards.” It was the first time the Lowcountry had seen snow in 16 years, but left only about an inch of snow on the ground around the area, according to the National Weather Service.

July 4, 2019: One killed, 11 injured by SC lightning strike on Black River

One person was fatally struck and at least 11 others injured by lightning on the afternoon of July 4 at a popular Black River gathering spot.

They were part of a large group under a tree struck when repeated lightning bolts erupted during a “pretty bad thunderstorm,” said Tony Hucks, Georgetown County Fire and Rescue assistant chief. The people under the tree were shocked by the force of one of the blasts, according to the Associated Press.

The strikes were among the earliest trouble as thunderstorms blew up across eastern and coastal South Carolina in the afternoon hours.

In Moncks Corner, parts of the roof were torn from the state Department of Motor Vehicles office on U.S. Highway 52, according to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office.

The National Weather Service Office in Charleston received a number of reports of a possible tornado but couldn’t immediately confirm whether one had touched down, said meteorologist Brittany MacNamara. Radar evidence didn’t indicate a tornado.

Three people struck by lightning near the river were taken by ambulance to Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital, including one in cardiac arrest, Hucks said.

That person later died. He was identified as 44-year-old Ryan Gamble of Andrews, according to AP. In late reports from the hospital, a total of 12 people were injured. In addition to Gamble, eight were in fair condition and three treated and released, said spokeswoman Dawn Bryant. — Source: Post and Courier

Aug. 11, 1940: The Georgia-South Carolina Hurricane

The strength: Winds blew at 105 mph. It is considered a Category 2 hurricane.

The dead: 34 people died.

The devastation: The unnamed storm, later called the Georgia-South Carolina Hurricane, made landfall near Beaufort, South Carolina. In less than 24 hours, Beaufort received an estimated 10.84 inches of rain. A reported 34 people died and, according to statements from the governor at the time, many of the people who died were black.

An archived account of the aftermath: “Gov. Burnet R. Maybank of South Carolina visited the Beaufort area, where the hurricane struck hardest, and reported distressing conditions. The governor said the Beaufort waterfront was swept away and every boat in the harbor sunk or crushed on the shore. The city had been without lights for two nights and power authorities said it might be a week or more before service was restored.”— The Charleston Evening Post, August 13, 1940.

Aug. 21, 2017: Great American Eclipse.

The first total solar eclipse in the continental United States in nearly 40 years took place on Aug. 21, 2017. Unfortunately most Lowcountry residents saw only rain clouds under the darkened sky. Some residents who made their way to Charleston or many of the Atlantic beaches witnessed the phenomenon through partly cloudy skies. Street lights throughout the Lowcountry came on and some stars were visible where it was not raining.

Aug. 27, 1893: The Great Sea Island Storm

Winds blew more than 120 mph. If historical accounts are accurate, the storm today would have been a Category 3 hurricane. The storm first made landfall near the South Carolina and Georgia border near Savannah. The unnamed hurricane would come to be called The Great Sea Island Storm. Records estimate upwards of 2,000 people died in the storm, and tens of thousands were left with nothing. However, the death toll could be even higher. Most of the people who lived on those islands were poor, black rice-field workers, and records were not kind to them. The storm's strength was so great that a tidal wave that struck at high tide near Hilton Head consumed entire islands. (Hence, the storm's name.)

An archived account of the aftermath: “The citizens will awake this morning and gaze upon innumerable evidences of the hurricane which swept over the city yesterday afternoon, and last night. Uprooted trees, fallen roofs, broken fences and in the less substantial parts of the town wrecked sheds and shanties will be found everywhere.” — The Charleston News and Courier, August 28, 1893

“The people of Charleston have indeed learned the knack of never surrendering .... Here was a community of 65,000 people standing absolutely alone, apart from all the world, all the modern means of communication with the outside world cut off, the streets strewn with electric wires and telegraph poles, the telephone dumb, the magic ticker of the telegraph silent, many of them with wives, parents, sweethearts, friends, hundreds of miles away from their ruined homes, the awful destruction of millions of dollars of property staring them in the face.” — The Charleston News and Courier, August 29, 1893.

Aug. 31, 1886: Great American Eclipse.

The epicenter of the largest earthquake ever recorded along the eastern United States coast was just outside of Charleston on Aug. 31, 1886. The 7.3 magnitude quake devastated the region and was felt from Chicago, Illinois, to Cuba.

Sept. 11, 2017: Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm when it moved through the Caribbean and came ashore in Miami Florida. It was originally forecast to push up the Florida panhandle then skirt back out into the Atlantic before coming ashore again at Savannah or even Charleston. The trajectory would have run right over Summerville. But by the time it’s effects were felt in South Carolina’s Lowcountry on Monday morning, it had been downgraded to a Category 1 storm or severe tropical storm. Nonetheless, it generated flash floods on the Ashley, Edisto and Santee rivers as well as French Quarter Creek in Huger and Turkey Creek in Hanahan. No loss of life was reported, but severe flooding took place to homes in lowlying areas. Some trees were uprooted and power was cut to about 4,500 people between Berkeley and Dorchester counties. Most businesses closed and many boarded their windows and doors. Tuesday arrived with partly cloudy skies and normal temperatures as residents worked to clean up downed limbs and other yard debris. Most residents said they felt as if the storm wasn’t as bad as they had prepared for.

Sept. 21, 1989: Hurricane Hugo

The strength: Winds blew at 138 mph, with gusts recorded at more than 160 mph. It was a Category 4 hurricane when it hit South Carolina.

The dead: 35 people died, including 13 people in South Carolina. Two people drowned in their South Carolina homes.

The devastation: Hugo became the most devastating storm in South Carolina history, costing 35 people their lives and the state more than $6 billion in damages. Hugo made landfall just North of Charleston, and closely followed the path of The Great Sea Island Storm nearly 100 years earlier. Winds gusted to a reported 109 mph at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina. A record-setting storm surge of 20 feet was reported.

The iconic Ben Sawyer Bridge was damaged so severely that pictures of it tilting into the waterway became an iconic image of the storm.

Grocery store bread shelves stood barren, and homes turned into piles of splintered wood almost overnight. Hugo left behind an estimated $13.5 billion of damage on the U.S. mainland.

An archived account of the aftermath: “At (Mayor Joe Riley's) feet, in front of the City Hall steps, lay a large section of the City Hall roof. Some roofs of buildings to the left and right were also in shambles.” — The Charleston News and Courier, September 22, 1989.

“It twisted the Ben Sawyer Bridge like a pretzel, leaving one end of the span sticking almost straight up in the air; sank at least five and maybe eight of the shrimp boats docked at Shem Creek; inflicted heavy damage on yachts and other boats at Toler's Cove; ripped the roof off Alhambra Hall in Old Town Mount Pleasant; smashed windows, damaged roofs, snapped large trees like toothpicks; and left most streets throughout Mount Pleasant impassable.” — The Evening Post, September 22, 1989

Sept. 29, 1959: Hurricane Gracie

The strength: Winds gusted as high as 138 mph at the Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station. It would become reclassified as a Category 4 Hurricane in 2016.

The dead: 22 people died, 10 of those deaths were in South Carolina and Georgia.

Hurricane Gracie in 1959. The storm earlier this year was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane, making it the third Category 4 storm in the state's history.

Hurricane Gracie in 1959. The storm earlier this year was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane, making it the third Category 4 storm in the state's history.

The devastation: Hurricane Gracie made landfall at St. Helena Island, but nearly all of the Lowcountry felt Gracie's wrath. Homes were uprooted. The waterfront was left “in shambles,” according to news reports from The Charleston Evening Post. Heavy flooding was reported in Walterboro when 8.3 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour timespan.

On Sept. 30, the United States Coast Guard had to evacuate people stranded in both Charleston and Savannah. According to a Beaufort Gazette article published on the 30-year anniversary of the day Gracie struck the Lowcountry, the storm cost Beaufort and Jasper counties a combined $1.5 million in damages.

A preliminary report from the U.S. Weather Bureau in November 1959 called Hurricane Gracie, “the most intense tropical cyclone to cross the coast of the southeastern United States since Hurricane 'Hazel' in 1954.”

Earlier this year, Hurricane Gracie was upgraded to a Category 4 storm, making it the third Category 4 storm in the state's history.

An archived account of the aftermath: “The (Edisto Island) beach itself looks like a deserted island and the road to the island is virtually a jungle. Huge trees, branches and limbs lying across the highway the last 18 miles before reaching the beach has turned the road into a difficult, snaking, circuitous route, making passage almost impossible.” — The Charleston Evening Post, September 30, 1959

“Wind damage from Gracie was the worst from a hurricane in the history of Beaufort, South Carolina. Damage to power lines, trees and buildings were extensive.” — A preliminary report on Hurricane Gracie, from the U.S. Weather Bureau

Oct. 4, 2015: Historic Flooding

A 1,000-year flood event struck the Lowcountry as the result of what has been called the October 2015 North American storm complex, a high precipitation system that moved created flash flooding across North and South Carolina and killing at least 25 deaths, 19 in South Carolina, 2 in New York, 2 in North Carolina, 1 in Florida, and 1 in New Brunswick. Damage in South Carolina alone is estimated at $12 billion, comparable to Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

From the National Weather Service:

A cold front came through late night Wed Sep 30th and stalled near the coast for several days due to an upper level flow that paralled the surface front. An upper level trough closed off and remained nearly stationary to our west for several days. A surface area of low pressure developed along the front near the coast or just offshore, while a strong area of surface high pressure built into eastern Canada. This resulted in a strong low level flow off the Atlantic. This flow pattern brought a long, deep fetch of moisture northwestward towards the Carolinas from Hurricane Joaquin.

The combination of upper divergence and lift east of the closed low, and a strong persistent low level flow off the Atlantic and associated low level moisture convergence and isentropic lift, along with a plume of tropical moisture getting entrained into the system, provided a band of heavy rain showers and a few thunderstorms that at times trained over the same areas and persisted for many hours.

The heaviest rain occurred from the Columbia vicinity, southeastward across lower Richland Co, Sumter Co, Calhoun Co, Clarendon Co and lower Orangeburg Co. The heaviest rainfall occurred late Saturday night Oct 3rd into the morning hours of Sunday Oct 4th. At times, rainfall rates of 2” inches per hour affected those locations for several hours. This heavy and persistant rainfall occurred over urban areas where runoff rates were high, and over grounds already wet from recent rains. This heavy rainfall caused numerous roadway and bridge closings due to dam failures, along with culvert and pipe washouts across the region. Numerous life saving swift water rescues were performed..

In general, a significant gradient in rainfall amounts occurred in our CWA, with 1-2 inches west of the Savannah River, 2-4 inches just on the east side of the Savannah River, with amounts ramping up to around 10 inches eastward into West Central Midlands, with 10-20 inches from Columbia SE across the Eastern Midlands. The NWS had been advertising this very heavy rainfall and flooding potential well in advance of the event.

During this event, Columbia Metro Airport set a new record for both the greatest one and two day rainfall totals.

Columbia Metro Airport Rainfall Record

Greatest 1-day rainfall…. 6.71 inches set on October 4, 2015

Old 1-day rainfall record….. 5.79 inches set on July 9, 1959

Greatest 2-day rainfall….. 10.28 inches set on October 3-4, 2015

Old 2-day rainfall record….. 7.69 inches set on August 16-17, 1949

Oct. 7, 2016: Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew cut power to more than 830,000 people in South Carolina as it blew up the East Coast from Florida and Georgia. The storm killed at least 11 people in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Property data firm CoreLogic projected the storm would cause at least $4 billion in insured losses. The storm dumped nearly a foot of rain in many areas of the Lowcountry, and a 6-foot surge turned streets into rivers and parking lots into ponds. Matthew flattened dunes on barrier island beaches and ripped roofs off gas stations and warehouses. A gust knocked the steeple off a church on Folly Road and waves breached the Battery’s sea wall and flowed into the historic district. Flash floods cut up roads, including one in Florence that swallowed a vehicle, and its driver was missing. Springmaid Pier, a Myrtle Beach landmark, was reduced to splinters. Emergency crews had performed 42 water rescues. A raging fire also consumed six buildings in North Myrtle Beach. Unable to put up ladders in high winds, firefighters had to pull back as the buildings burned, The Myrtle Beach Sun reported. By late in the day at least 338 roads and bridges in South Carolina, including about 140 in Charleston were closed. Rain started as a fine mist on the morning of Oct. 6, then turned into a fire hose as day turned to night and the eyewall closed in. Some of the heaviest rain fell near the Georgia-South Carolina line. Hunter Air Force Base had 17.5 inches. Nearly 13 inches fell in Jasper County and 11 inches in the ACE Basin. In less than 24 hours, roughly 10 inches fell in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

Oct. 11, 2018: Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael claimed the lives of 45 people as it blew through the Florida Panhandle, up through Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. But the storm was nearly a non-event in the Lowcountry, which braced for the worst when early forecasts predicted a major event in the Lowcountry. In fact many Lowcountry residents left early and fled inland only to find themselves directly in the path of the storm. As of 9 a.m. on Oct. 11 the eye of the storm moved through Augusta, Georgia, passing just north of Aiken and Columbia with sustained winds exceeding 50 miles per hour. Michael brought heavy rain along it’s path, which triggered flash flood warnings in Dorchester and Berkeley counties, but rivers and streams remained within it their banks in the following days. The predicted high water failed to produce any significant damage to the area. Schools in Dorchester and Berkeley counties closed Thursday, but resumed the next day under mostly sunny skies.

Oct. 15, 1954: Hurricane Hazel

The strength: Winds reached 106 mph at Myrtle Beach, and it was classified as a Category 4 hurricane.

The dead: One person died in South Carolina. All told, the storm killed more than 1,000 people.

The devastation: Hazel first made landfall near the South Carolina-North Carolina border. When Hazel Oceanfront property north of Pawleys Island was destroyed. The storm surge reached a reported 18 feet.

In a period of 24 hours, approximately 8.8 inches of rain fell in Georgetown, South Carolina.

An archived account of the aftermath: “Some buildings stood, their seaward ends yawning unsupported over sodden sand. Others, their fronts torn away, showed, almost indecently, the ugly disarray of broken furniture and soaking rugs, curtains and bed linen.” — The Charleston News and Courier, October 16, 1954

“Describing the scene of devastation there as he rested at Myrtle Beach this afternoon, Mr. Mishoe said: 'When I saw three houses float off their foundations and drift away, I decided it was time to leave.'” — The Charleston News and Courier, October 16, 1954

Dec. 22-24, 1989: The White Christmas of 1989

A snowstorm coated the Southeast on Dec. 22-24, 1989, dumpin more than 15 inches of snow on the coastal North Carolina town of Wilmington and setting new records for snowfall and low temperatures all over the region. In mid-September of that same year Hurricane Hugo made landfall just north of Charleston as a ferocious Category 4 storm, resulting in dozens of deaths and billions of dollars in property damage.

The 1989 snowstorm brought high temperatures of 20 degrees in the Lowcountry on Dec. 23. Meteorologists measured 8 inches of snowfall at the Charleston Airport, an inch deeper than the previous record set during the "Snowstorm of the Century" in February 1973. -- Source: The Post and Courier, Jan. 3, 2018