Hurricane season: A look back at South Carolina’s most devastating hurricanes

Hurricane Hugo hit the Palmetto State September 21, 1989. It came inland just north of Charleston and waged a path of destruction as it moved into the Midlands.
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 3:48 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Atlantic 2023 Hurricane Season officially began on June 1 and experts are forecasting that this year we will see between 12 to 17 named storms.

That’s around the average for the season, but anyone who’s lived in the South knows that the weather can change up at the last minute.

Hurricane season names
Hurricane season names(NOAA)

Last year was a unique hurricane season, where there were surprisingly no named storms in August but three hurricanes in November. Overall in 2022 there were less hurricanes than forecasted, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

According to predictions from the NOAA, there are expected to be 5 to 9 hurricanes and possibly 1 to 4 major hurricanes this year.

Experts call a hurricane “major” when it has wind speeds that exceed 111 miles per hour.

These major hurricanes can lead to devastating impacts including flooding and damaging wind speeds, experts say.

Each year, South Carolina has about an 80% chance of being impacted by a tropical system, with September being the month that the state is most likely to see a storm, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

A look back at previous hurricanes

South Carolina has felt the devastating impacts of hurricanes through the years. From 1851 to 2021, South Carolina has seen 44 tropical cyclones and four made landfall as a major hurricane, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The most powerful hurricanes to impact South Carolina in recent years were Hurricane Hazel, Hurricane Grace and Hurricane Hugo.

Hurricane Hazel

The Category Four storm made landfall in 1954 near the South Carolina-North Carolina border in Little River.

Myrtle Beach reported that winds were gusting up to 106 miles per hour when Hazel reached the shore and brought 10 feet of storm surge to South Carolina’s beaches.

Stories From The Storms: Hurricane Hazel
Stories From The Storms: Hurricane Hazel

The powerful hurricane crossed over western Haiti — killing an estimated 400 to 1,000 residents — before hitting the U.S.

The storm washed out South Carolina bridges and roads, took out restaurants and flooded businesses.

One died in the storm and it cost $27 million in damages, according to aDOR report.

Hurricane Gracie

Hurricane Gracie also struck South Carolina as a Category Four storm only a few years later.

Hurricane Gracie was the second hurricane in 1959 to make landfall that Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Damage from Hurricane Gracie in SC
Damage from Hurricane Gracie in SC

The storm had maximum sustained winds near 130 miles per hour.

Ten people died as a result of the storm and it caused “widespread and extensive” damage, according to the NOAA.

Hurricane Hugo

This storm made landfall in 1989 at Sullivan’s Island as a Category Four storm with maximum winds of 135 to 140 miles per hour.

Stories From The Storms: Hurricane Hugo
Stories From The Storms: Hurricane Hugo

When Hurricane Hugo struck South Carolina, it was the strongest storm to hit the U.S. in 20 years and it was the nation’s most expensive hurricanes on record, according to the NOAA.

“Hugo produced tremendous wind and storm surge damage along the coast and even produced hurricane force wind gusts several hundred miles inland into western North Carolina,” the NOAA says on their website.

DIGITAL EXTRA: #Hugo25: Remembering Hurricane Hugo: 25 Years Later
DIGITAL EXTRA: #Hugo25: Remembering Hurricane Hugo: 25 Years Later

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