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 state’s 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 production.

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 State’s 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 $100 million.

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 Sullivan’s 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.