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South Carolina State Climatology Office
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South Carolina 2003 Weather in Review

General Summary:

South Carolina temperatures averaged 62.1 F, or 0.6 F below normal while precipitation totaled 55.38, or 7.43 inches more than normal. Calendar year 2003 ranks as the 32nd coolest and the 17th wettest year among 109 years of record.

Significant Events: On January 24th the state experienced the largest snowfall in coverage area since March 1980 with all counties reporting snow. South Carolina experienced the wettest spring (March - May) on record with 19.03 inches recorded. The summer was generally cooler than normal with no station reporting 100 degrees or higher. The last time the state experienced a summer without a 100 degree report was 1994. 2003 was generally wet providing much needed relief from the record drought of 1998-2002.

Synopsis: January started the year with cooler than normal temperatures and much below normal precipitation on average. A cold air mass during mid-month combined with low pressure creating four inch snows across the Piedmont and flurries into the Midlands. On January 24, a similar pattern developed with statewide snowfalls. Clover in York County measured nine inches while Hilton Head reported flurries. This was the largest snowfall in coverage area for the state since March 1980. Caesars Head recorded a morning low temperature of zero degrees on the 24th, the state's lowest temperature of 2003.

Mild conditions started February with high temperatures in the mid-70's. A weak disturbance on the 7th caused one inch snows over the higher elevations and sleet into the Midlands. A sharp turn back to warm weather occurred on the 15th with Allendale reaching 80 degrees. Only a couple of days passed before another cold wave entered from the north with snows and freezing rain upstate and freezing rain across the Midlands. More warmth followed and the first thunderstorms were reported on the 21st and 22nd with hail, high winds, and heavy rains. Rivers responded with sharp rises.

March arrived on a warming note with mid-70 degree readings across most of the state. Thunderstorms on the 6th produced heavy flooding rains bringing many rivers near flood stage. Antreville measured 3.13 inches. On the 12th Allendale reached 83 degrees. Some early flowering and pollen were evident. More thunderstorms on the 15th caused flooding over the south Midlands. Moist air continued to be forced over the state with frequent scattered thunderstorms. Clemson measured 4.27 inches of rain on the 20th. At month's end,summer-like weather was being observed. Orangeburg recorded a high temperature of 87 on the 29th.

Flowering accelerated in early April due to the warmth and weekly rainfalls. During the second week a stationary front stalled over the state producing several days of off and on rains. Flood warnings were issued and secondary roads became impassable. Eutawville measured 4.12 inches of rain on the 8th. The state's last freeze occurred at Caesars Head on the morning of the 11th with 31 degrees.

May started as though Summer had arrived. On the 2nd Orangeburg warmed to 92 degrees. On the same day storms upstate produced a tornado near Easley. Afternoon storms became violent on the 6th with Spartanburg measuring 70 mph winds, two inch hail in Abbeville, and a tornado in Dorchester County. With the sun angle increasing, hot days of 95 degrees were observed at both Jamestown and Conway on the 10th. During the third week, a stationary frontal boundary lingered for several days producing rainfall totals over six inches.

June mirrored its preceding month with daily afternoon thunderstorms and increasing heat. On the 15th, Summerville reached a peak heat index value of 106 degrees. Surf temperatures along the coastal beaches warmed to 80 degrees. A late push of cold air around the 22nd sent morning low temperatures upstate to 50 degrees at Lake Bowen. The first official week of Summer was unexpectedly cool, but by the 26th temperatures had returned back to the 90 degree mark or higher.

July started under a hot and humid air mass. Tropical Storm Bill which made landfall along the Gulf Coast forced bands of storms into South Carolina on July 1. Flooding rains and a tornado in Hampton County were noted. Upstate, nearly six inches of rain fell, causing flash flooding damage. The mercury climbed to its highest of the season during the second week with both Ft. Moultrie and Hartsville reporting 98 degrees. Convective thunderstorms on the 12th produced a 67 mph wind gust in Florence, high winds toppled large trucks in Orangeburg, and golf-ball sized hail fell in Anderson and Pickens. With the frequency of afternoon thunderstorms increasing, the associated cloudiness helped moderate the high temperatures. An unseasonable cool air mass skirted the state on the 24th. Caesars Head recorded a morning low of 54 degrees. By months end, most sites were reporting one half to one foot above normal rainfall for the year.

August continued the stormy and wet pattern. On the 7th Greer measured 3 inches of flooding rains in one hour. By August 10th Greer had already received what was considered their normal yearly rainfall. During the same week passing storms overturned airplanes at the Greenville AP. A lengthy period of hot, upper 90 degree weather occurred during the final days of the month.

September was visited by the effects of Tropical Storm Henri which came ashore along Florida's west coast. Coastal counties received the heaviest rains with 3.52 inches of rain at Ft. Moultrie on the 5th and 6th. Cooler northeast winds forced the heat to retreat during the second week as a Fall-like feeling was apparent with morning low temperatures in the 50's and 60's. Hurricane Isabel passed well offshore on the 17th and 18th with gusting winds of 30 mph and rainbands grazing the north coast. Cooler weather arrived with the first day of Fall, and the month ended with seasonal temperatures.

October, known for its blue skies and a change to cooler weather, did not disappoint. Normally one of the drier months, rains continued to add to the year's surplus. A slow moving low pressure area south of the state caused wet weather for most of the first week. The few weeks of cooler mornings and diminishing sunlight helped to start the annual fall colors in the higher elevations.

November took a back seat to the calendar with 80 degree days for its start. Beaufort observed a rare heat index value of 102 degrees on the 5th. Mid-month a powerful cold air mass dropped southeastward bringing the season's first frost on the 14th with Chester reporting a morning low of 23 degrees. By the 18th warmer, moist air displaced the cold with storms forming over the mountains. Jocassee Hatchery measured an event total of 6.65 inches of rain. A second strong cold front ended the month with winds gusting to 51 mph on Lake Moultrie and a statewide freeze for sites except the beaches. Caesars Head recorded a low of 19 degrees on the morning of the 30th.

December began with winter weather on the heels of a passing cold front. On the 10th, snow, sleet and freezing rain covered the western two thirds of the state. Snow was reported again in the mountains on the 19th with low temperatures dropping into the teens by 21st. Chester recorded a low of 14 degrees. Christmas Day was mostly cloudy and cold with high temperatures only climbing into the lower 40's. A slow warming trend ended the year.

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