South Carolina Storms of the Century
1903 - The Great Pacolet Flood: The greatest loss of life from river flooding this
century in South Carolina occurred along the Pacolet River near Pacolet during the early
morning of June 6th. Strong convergence plus upslope flow of warm moist air associated
with low pressure which tracked across northwestern South Carolina produced the heavy rain
that caused the flooding. Sixty-five people were drowned by the raging flood waters.
According to the National Weather Service Monthly Weather Review, the water rose so
rapidly that the land near the river was covered by 40 feet of water within one hour.
Railway traffic was disrupted. There was complete loss of houses, churches, industrial
plants and corn and flour mills along the river. The textile communities of Clifton and
Pacolet were hit the hardest by the flood, but flood damage also occurred along other
streams in northwest South Carolina. The economy was devastated by $5 million (1903
dollars) in damage.
1924 - Horrell Hill Tornado: On April 30, 1924, a disastrous tornado ripped a 135
mile path across the state, the longest in the states history. Starting in Aiken
County and ending in Darlington County, the tornado left a swath of death and destruction.
When it was over, 67 people had lost their lives. Almost half of the deaths occurred in
Richland County, half of these in the Horrell Hill Community (hence the name). Modern day
examination of damage records and storm history places the tornado at F4 on the Fujita
scale with an estimated wind speed in the 207 - 260 mile per hour range.
1908 - Flood: The flood of August 26-30, 1908, was the most extensive flood of
record; all major rivers in the state rose from 9 to 22 feet above flood stage. A low
pressure center formed in the Gulf of Mexico and moved northeastward across South Carolina
causing unprecedented statewide flooding. There was heavy damage to crops and property
along the rivers.
1925 - Drought: The most widespread and disastrous drought in the history of South
Carolina prevailed from February to the first two weeks of November of 1925. During this
period, the rainfall deficit reached 18.23 inches. During the principal growing season
months, when timely rains were most needed, the deficiency was 12.41 inches.
Hydro-electric power was curtailed, livestock water became scarce, and deep wells failed.
1928 - Flood: The hurricane of September 21-24, 1928, caused severe flooding for
most of the state. Average rainfall ranged from 10 to 12 inches, and property losses were
$4-$6 million. Bridges were destroyed and roads and railways were impassable.
1954 - Drought: 1954 was a year of disastrous drought, especially during the very
hot summer months. The statewide mean annual precipitation of 32.96 inches holds the
record for the driest year. Small streams went dry and crops were devastated. The National
Weather Service reported that the 1954 crop was only ten percent of the ten year average
1954 - Hurricane Hazel: As the state was trying to escape from the drought and heat
of the spring and summer months, Hurricane Hazel dealt a staggering blow. Hazel smashed
inland just north of the South Carolina/North Carolina border on October 15. Winds in
excess of 100 mph were reported in the Myrtle Beach area. Towering seas, excessive tides
and hurricane winds combined to inflict damage totaling $27 million on the state. The fury
of the hurricane and the slow, creeping destruction of the drought combined to create
losses in excess of $100 million.
1973 - February 8-11, Snow Storm: The snow storm that crossed the Southeastern
states from February 8 to February 11, 1973, brought a record breaking snowfall to South
Carolina. Snow fell for approximately 24 hours beginning in late afternoon on the 9th. The
belt of largest amounts lay parallel to the coast about 75 miles inland. The heaviest
snowfall was 24 inches measured in Rimini. About 30,000 tourists were stranded on the
States highways. Many had to be rescued by helicopter. Eight fatalities resulted
from exposure. The snow was accompanied by strong winds and followed by severe cold.
Drifts to 8 feet were found in some locations. At least 200 buildings collapsed, as did
thousands of awnings and carports. The property damage and road damage plus cost of snow
removal and rescue operations were estimated at close to $30 million.
1984- March 28, 1984 Tornado Outbreak: On March 28, 1984, one of the most intense
low pressure centers on record moved across the State, spawning 11 tornadoes, and numerous
damaging thunderstorms. The first tornado appeared in Honea Path in Anderson County and
was followed by a series of ten tornadoes along a line from Anderson and Newberry counties
east-northeast through Marlboro County into North Carolina. Fifteen people were killed as
a direct result of these tornadoes and at least six other deaths were indirectly
associated with this severe weather episode. Damage estimates for this outbreak exceeded
1989- September 21, 1989 Hurricane Hugo: After developing in the far eastern
Atlantic and causing major damage in the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,
Hurricane Hugo (Category 4) made landfall near Sullivans Island, South Carolina, at
2300 EST on September 21, 1989. The hurricane caused 13 directly related deaths, 22
indirectly related deaths, and injured several hundred people in South Carolina. Damage
within the Palmetto State from Hurricane Hugo has been estimated to exceed $7 billion,
including $2 billion in crop damage. The estimated maximum sustained winds at landfall
were 138 miles per hour.
*Data were compiled from State Climatology Office publications, National Weather
Service Climatological Summaries and publications, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration Storm Data.