National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Tropical Cyclone History for the

South Carolina Lowcountry and Georgia Coastal Empire

Updated: 8/27/21

The data below is based on the official Atlantic basin tropical cyclone (TC) database (HURDAT), which includes known tropical depressions (TD), tropical storms (TD) and hurricanes (H) back to 1851. Refer to the National Hurricane Center data archive and NOAA Historical Hurricane Tracks website for more information

Storm Statistics:

  • All TC:
    • Since official records began in 1851 through 2018, 309 TC tracked through a domain roughly centered around the NWS Charleston, SC County Warning Area (CWA), which runs from Charleston County, SC to McIntosh County, GA.  
      • Most TC occurred during the typically busier period in the Atlantic basin from August through October, but June and July were also fairly active followed by May and November. The earliest TC was a TS that passed offshore in February 1952. Note that the 10 TC that occurred during two months were counted twice.
      • There are general increasing decadal trends in total TC and TD but general decreasing decadal trends in TS, H, and MH. This could at least partially be explained by better observations of weaker systems. There also appears to be cycles of TC, especially H, likely associated with the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation
      • There is a general increasing trend of early (prior to June) and late (after October) season TC, possibly related to better observations in more recent years.
      • From 1950 to 2018, although more TC occurred overall during "cool" El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions (e.g., La Nina), there was a preference for TC earlier in the year to occur during "warm" ENSO conditions (e.g., El Nino). Also, the 7 major (Cat 3+) hurricanes occurred during neutral or La Nina conditions.
      • From 1979 to 2018, most TC occurred when the average of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) Indices 6 and 7 were either "neutral" (-0.5 to 0.5) or "positive" (>0.5). 
  • TCs By Strength/Decade (1851-2018)
  • TCs By Month Passing Through the Study Domain (1851-2018)
  • Early/Late Season TCs By Decade (1851-2018)
  • TCs By Month/ENSO Phase (1950-2018)
  • TCs By Strength/ENSO Phase (1950-2018)
  • TCs by Average of MJO Indices 6 and 7 (1979-2018)
  • Landfalling TC:
    • Since official records began in 1851 through 2018, 41 TC have made landfall in the NWS Charleston, SC CWA.
      • 25 of these TC were H, 9 were TS, and 7 were TD.
      • 17 of these TC made landfall in Charleston County, SC, 9 made landfall in Beaufort County, SC and 6 in Chatham County, GA.
      • Most landfalling TC by far occurred in August (12) and September (12) with the earliest landfalls in May (2) and the latest landfalls in October (7).
      • There has been a general upward trend in the number of weaker TC making landfall and a general downward trend in the number of major (Cat 3-5) hurricane landfalls.
      • Most landfalling TC from 1950-2018 occurred during "neutral" El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions with a slight preference for "warm" ENSO (i.e., El Nino) conditions versus "cold" ENSO (i.e., La Nina) conditions.
      • From 1950 to 2018 there was a slight preference for TC to make landfall during the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) rather than during the negative phase. 
      • From 1950 to 2018 there is no preference for TC to make landfall during either the positive or negative phases of the Arctic Oscillation (AO).
  • NWS Charleston, SC Landfalling Tropical Cyclones By Decade
  • NWS Charleston, SC Landfalling Tropical Cyclones By Month
  • NWS Charleston, SC Landfalling Tropical Cyclones By Climate Regime
  • NWS Charleston, SC Landfalling Tropical Cyclones By El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Phase

 

Notable Storms:

Year
Date(s)
Name/#
Notes/Impacts to the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire
Pre-1800
1686 Sep 4-5 "Spanish Repulse" Likely made landfall near Charleston causing extensive damage to ships, trees, crops, houses and livestock, and killed many people. After the storm, the Spanish aborted an invasion and turned back to FL.
1700 Sep 14 "Rising Sun" Likely made landfall north of Charleston causing severe storm surge flooding despite winds shifting just before high tide, damage to several ships, including the 800-ton Scottish ship "Rising Sun", and 100+ deaths. 
1713 Sep 16-17 "Great Storm" Extremely destructive hurricane made landfall north of Charleston causing significant property damage and at least 70 deaths.
1722 Sep 19-21   Likely made landfall near Savannah causing significant flooding with the Savannah River over-spilling its banks. 
1728 Aug 13-14   Likely made landfall just south of Charleston causing significant damage to ships, houses, wharfs, bridges and crops.
1752 Sep 12-15 "Great Hurricane" Very strong hurricane made landfall just south of Charleston near high tide producing severe storm surge flooding, much property/crop/livestock damage and at least 95 deaths. It is likely the worst storm to ever hit Charleston. The storm occurred around the transition from the Julian to Gregorian calendars.
1783 Oct 6-8   Strong hurricane tracked along the coast causing significant property damage but not as much flooding as the 1752 storm.
1800s
1804 Sep 7-8   Hurricane moved up the coast producing significant wind/water damage in/near Charleston and killing many people.
1811 Sep 8-10   Hurricane likely made landfall south of Charleston causing a tornado which caused a lot of damage in the city.
1813 Aug 27   Brief but violent hurricane caused significant property damage and storm surge flooding similar to the 1752 storm and worse than the 1804 storm.
1822 Sep 27   Landfall just north of Charleston, SC as a rather small Cat 3 hurricane producing severe damage, mainly around the Santee River. 

Official Records Begin in 1851

**Storms highlighted in red made landfall in the NWS Charleston County Warning Area (CWA)**

1854 Sep 7-9 "Great Carolina" Landfall just south of Savannah, GA as a large Cat 3 hurricane and then slowly tracked just east of Statesboro, GA as a Cat 1 hurricane before weakening to a TS as it crossed the Savannah River into Allendale County, SC. Although most of the significant wind damage was near/south of Charleston, SC, substantial storm surge flooding occurred well northward along the SC coast ruining many crops. 
1867 Jun 21-23   **Earliest hurricane to make landfall in the NWS Charleston CWA** Landfall at Isle of Palms, SC as a Cat 1 hurricane and then weakened to a TS before moving through the Pee Dee and into central NC.
1874 Sep 27-28   Landfall on Seabrook Island, SC as a Cat 1 hurricane. Produced downed telegraph lines and extensive wharf/crop damage in Charleston along with 2 deaths.
1878 Sep 10-12   Landfall just south of Charleston, SC as a Cat 1 hurricane. Produced significant crop damage.
1881 Aug 27-28   Landfall just south of Savannah, GA as a Cat 2 hurricane with winds ~105 mph before moving west into central GA and weakening into a TS. Produced significant surge flooding, property/crop damage and 700 U.S. deaths.
1884 Sep 9-13   Landfall south of Savannah, GA on St. Catherine's Island as a TS. Weakened to a TD over land and re-curved out to sea off the SC coast before re-strengthening to a TS.
1885 Aug 24-25   Landfall at Kiawah Island, SC as a Cat 2 hurricane causing significant damage along the GA/SC coasts northward through around Pawley's Island, SC and at least 21 deaths.
1893 Aug 27-28 "Great Sea Islands" Landfall just south of Savannah, GA as a Cat 3 hurricane with winds near 115 mph. Moved north-northeast through the SC Midlands and weakened to a Cat 1 hurricane before reaching Columbia, SC. The storm hit near high tide and produced a catastrophic storm surge of 16+ feet, significant damage northward through around Charleston, and 1,000-2,000 deaths in the U.S.(mostly from drowning due to the storm surge). There was less damage and less deaths in Charleston compared to the 1885 storm and Savannah was spared complete inundation, however, the storm essentially marked the beginning of the end of the local phosphate industry.
1893 Oct 12-13   Moved northeast off the coasts of GA before making landfall along the SC coast just north of Charleston as a compact Cat 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds and minimum central pressure of 955 mb. Produced significant flooding due to already wet ground from previous storms.
1894 Sep 26-27   Landfall on Hilton Head Island, SC as a Cat 1 hurricane before moving northeast and passing just west of Charleston with winds around 80 mph.
1896 Sep 29   Tracked through southeast GA as a Cat 2/3 hurricane and through southeast SC as a Cat 1/2 hurricane. Produced significant wind damage around Savannah, GA and Beaufort, SC. 
1898 Aug 30-31   Landfall on Hilton Head Island, SC as a Cat 1 hurricane. Produced significant wind damage around Savannah and saltwater from the storm surge wrecked rice crops along the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers.
1898 Oct 1-3   Landfall on Cumberland Island, GA as a Cat 4 hurricane with winds near 130 mph. Moved northwest into central GA and weakened to a Cat 1 hurricane over Telfair County and then to a TS southwest of Macon. Produced a storm tide near 20 feet on Jekyll Island (with some significant flooding even around Savannah, GA), significant property damage across southeast GA and 179 U.S. deaths.
1900s
1911 Aug 27-30   Landfall on Hilton Head Island, SC as a Cat 2 hurricane with winds near 100 mph. Moved slowly westward and weakened into a TS before reaching Statesboro, GA. Wind gusts reached 110 mph in Beaufort, SC, 96 mph in Savannah, GA, 95 mph on Edisto Island, SC and 94 mph at Charleston, SC (before the Weather Bureau's anemometer broke) causing many trees, power lines, and telegraph lines to fall. A significant storm surge produced extensive flood damage, especially from around Beaufort to Charleston. Much of the rice crops were destroyed, effectively ending the region's rice industry.
1912 Jul 14-16   Landfall near Altamaha Sound, GA as a TS. Slowly moved west across southern GA producing heavy rain.
1912 Sep 5-6   TS moved southwest off the SC coast before weakening into a TD and then making landfall on Ossabaw Island, GA.
1913 Oct 7-10   Landfall on Cape Island, SC just north of Charleston as a Cat 1 hurricane. Produced heavy rain, especially in northeast SC, including 4"+ at Charleston. 
1916 May 15-16   **Earliest tropical storm to make landfall in the NWS Charleston CWA**  Landfall on Fripp Island, SC as a TS. 
1916 Jul 13-15   Landfall at Bulls Bay, SC as a Cat 2 hurricane. The storm moved slowly and produced very heavy rain which caused severe river flooding.  Damage was significant, mostly north of Charleston and likely the worst in that area since the 1822 storm.
1916 Oct 3-5   Landfall at Sapelo Island, GA as a TS.
1927 Oct 2-3   Landfall near Edisto Beach, SC as a TS. 
1928 Sep 18 "Lake Okeechobee" Landfall between Beaufort, SC and Charleston, SC as a Cat 1 hurricane. Produced some wind damage, mainly downed trees and power/phone lines, 11"+ of rain in Savannah, GA which caused significant flooding and ~$1 million in damage in Charleston.
1940 Aug 10-13   Landfall near Hilton Head Island, SC as a Cat 2 hurricane with winds near 100 mph. Produced significant storm surge, 10+ inches of rain (mostly across SC). 
1945 Sep 16-17   Landfall near the GA/SC border as a TS. Produced gusts near 90 mph at Paris Island, SC, moderate flooding, and tornadoes with $6-7 million damage.
1947 Oct 14-16   Landfall on Ossabaw Island, GA just south of Savannah as a Cat 2 hurricane with winds near 105 mph. Produced minor to moderate damage in Savannah as well as above normal tides in Charleston where minor flooding occurred. The lowest pressure at Savannah was 28.77 in Hg (974 mb), which is the 3rd lowest on record.
1950 Sep 6-7 Easy TD moved through southern GA. Produced very heavy rainfall, especially across coastal GA where 15+ inches fell (Savannah, GA recorded 16" inches).
1952 Aug 30-31 Able Landfall near Beaufort, SC as a Cat 2 hurricane with sustained winds near 100 mph and minimum central pressure near 980 mb. Produced 90 mph winds at Beaufort, heavy rainfall over eastern SC and 2 deaths and $3 million in damage in SC.
1953 Aug 31-Sep 1   TS approached the GA coast but weakened into a TD before making landfall south of Savannah, GA. The storm then moved inland through southeast GA and dissipated over central GA.
1954 Oct 14-15 Hazel Landfall near the SC/NC border as a Cat 4 hurricane with sustained winds near 130 mph. Caused 95 deaths in the U.S. and was one of the worst storms on record in SC with significant damage, mainly from Pawleys Island northward. 
1959 Jul 4-9 Cindy Landfall just north of Charleston, SC near Bulls Bay as a Cat 1 hurricane with winds near 75 mph winds. 64 mph winds were recorded at McClellanville along with 1 death. Storm tides were ~4 feet above normal and heavy rain fell. 
1959 Sep 28-30 Gracie Landfall near Beaufort, SC as a Cat 4 hurricane with sustained winds near 130 mph and minimum pressure of 951 mb. Moved northwest past Columbia and weakened into a TS before moving into NC producing heavy rainfall which led to significant flooding as well as severe crop damage. Although a significant storm surge occurred (~9 feet at Charleston Harbor), the resulting flooding would have been much worse if the storm hit at high tide instead of low tide. The highest recorded storm tide was ~12 feet above mean low water (MLW) at Edisto Beach, SC. The relatively slow speed of the storm helped cause extensive wind/flooding damage across southeast SC, mainly in the Beaufort to Charleston corridor, along with 10 deaths in GA and SC. For more info, check out the NHC archive
1960 Sep 11 Donna Landfall in the FL Keys as a Cat 4 hurricane and then moved northeast while weakening to a Cat 1 and then re-strengthening to a Cat 2 off the SC coast. Produced heavy rain, gusts near 70 mph on the coast near Charleston, tides ~2 feet above normal and a tornado that injured ~10 people and caused considerable damage in the Charleston area.
1971 Sep 10-11   Landfall near Charleston, SC as a TD and then dissipated before moving west into GA.
1976 Aug 19-21 Dottie Landfall near Charleston, SC as a TS before dissipating north of Lake Moultrie. 
1979 Jun 15-16   TD approached the central SC coast from the south and made landfall near Kiawah Island before dissipating east of Columbia. Produced ~1-3 inches of rainfall across the area.
1979 Sep 4-5 David Landfall on Sapelo Island, GA as a Cat 1 hurricane with winds ~90 mph. Produced 5 tornadoes, heavy rainfall (including 6.86" at Savannah), significant storm surge and beach erosion and ~$10 million in damage in SC. Savannah, GA recorded its 2nd lowest pressure on record (28.65" Hg / 970 mb).
1981 Jul 3   TD moved north along the FL east coast and made landfall on Fripp Island, SC.
1985 Jul 24-25 Bob Landfall on Fripp Island, SC as a Cat 1 hurricane. Produced a 44 mph wind gust in downtown Charleston, SC and a 48 mph gust at Folly Beach, SC. 5" of rain fell at the Charleston Airport.
1988 Aug 28 Chris Landfall near Savannah, GA as a TS. Produced heavy rainfall (~3 inches over eastern SC).
1989 Sep 21-22 Hugo Landfall at Sullivan's Island, SC as a Cat 4 hurricane with sustained winds near 140 mph producing very significant damage near Charleston. The peak wind gust in Downtown Charleston was 108 mph, at Folly Beach it was 107 mph and in North Charleston at the airport it was 98 mph. Landfall occurred just before high tide but still resulted in peak storm tides of ~20 feet above mean sea level at Romain Retreat, SC and 10-12 feet above mean sea level in Charleston Harbor. Rainfall amounts were limited due to the fast motion of the storm, although up to ~10 inches still occurred in southeast SC (highest total was 10.28 inches at Edisto Island). Check out our video series about the storm and its impacts!
1995 Aug 24-27 Jerry Landfall near Palm Beach, FL as a TS and then slowly moved northwest toward the Big Bend area and weakened to a TD before moving north into east-central GA and eventually dissipating northwest of Augusta. Produced heavy rainfall, including a widespread area of 7+ inches over the Lowcountry/Coastal Empire and 10+ inches in some spots, including ~13 inches at Hilton Head Island, SC, ~11 inches at Savannah Airport, and ~7 inches at Charleston Airport.
1999 Sep 15 Floyd Floyd was a large and intense Cape Verde storm that pounded parts of the Bahamas and threatened the entire Southeast U.S. coast. Floyd neared Cat 5 intensity in the Bahamas; however, it weakened thereafter and was a Cat 2 as it made landfall near Cape Fear, NC. Produced a 53 mph wind gust at the Savannah Airport and an 85 mph gust in Downtown Charleston. The minimum pressure at the Charleston Airport was 989.5 mb while rainfall totaled ~4 inches at the Charleston Airport and in Downtown Charleston.
2000s
2002 Oct 11-12 Kyle Moved north-northeast along the GA/SC coasts before making landfall near McClellanville, SC as a TS. Produced heavy rainfall across coastal southeast GA and southeast SC (2.25 inches at the Savannah Airport and 4.91 inches at the Charleston Airport).
2003 Jul 25-26 #7 TD developed off the FL coast near Daytona Beach and moved northwest before making landfall at Sapelo Island, GA and then dissipating over central GA. Produced heavy rainfall, including ~5 inches near Savannah.
2004 Aug 14 Charley Landfall at Cape Romain, SC as a Cat 1 hurricane. Produced a peak wind gust of 38 mph and 1.02 inches of rain at the Charleston Airport.
2004 Aug 28-29 Gaston Landfall near Awendaw, SC as a Cat 1 hurricane. Produced a peak wind gust of 55 mph and 4.05 inches of rain at the Charleston Airport and 4.63 inches in Downtown Charleston.
2004 Sep 5-7 Frances Landfall on the FL coast near Stuart as a Cat 2 hurricane. The storm then moved into the northeast Gulf of Mexico and made a second landfall along the Big Bend area of FL as a TS before moving into western GA and dissipating into a TD. 20 tornadoes were documented across southeast SC and northern portions of southeast GA.
2004 Sep 26-28 Jeanne Landfall near Stuart, FL as a Cat 3 hurricane. The storm then moved up the west coast of FL and weakened into a TS before continuing into central GA and upstate SC as a TD. The storm produced ~1-3 inches of rain and 6 confirmed weak tornadoes across southeast SC and northern portions of southeast GA.
2005 Oct 5-6 Tammy Landfall near Atlantic Beach, FL as a TS. Moved northwest into southeast GA before weakening into a TD. Produced very heavy rainfall over southeast GA/SC, including localized amounts near 10 inches, especially over southeast GA where over 14 inches fell around Darien causing significant flooding.
2006 Jun 13-14 Alberto Landfall along the Big Bend area of FL as a TS. Moved northeast into southeast GA and weakened to a TD before moving into central SC and becoming an extra-tropical storm. Produced ~2-5 inches of rain across southeast SC/GA (3.29 inches of rain at the Savannah Airport and 2.51 inches at the Charleston Airport) with locally higher amounts ~7 inches (7.05 inches at Rincon, GA). In addition, 7 tornadoes were documented across southeast SC/GA in NWS Charleston's County Warning Area. 
2016 May 28-30 Bonnie Developed north of the Bahamas and strengthened into a TS as it move northwest toward the GA/SC coasts, eventually weakening to a TD before making landfall near Charleston. Produced heavy rainfall (widespread 3-7 inches with local amounts over 10 inches), mainly north of I-16, which led to significant flooding.
2016 Jun 6-7 Colin Developed north of the Yucatan Peninsula and moved northeast while strengthening into a TS before making landfall around the Big Bend area of FL. Moved through southeast GA and then near the SC coast as a TS. Produced heavy rainfall (mainly 2-3 inches with locally higher amounts over 4 inches), which led to some flooding. Also produced some coastal flooding due to high storm tides.
2016 Sep 1-3 Hermine Made landfall around the Big Bend area of FL as a Cat 1 hurricane and then moved northeast just inland through southeast GA and SC as a TS. Produced widespread tropical storm force wind gusts (60+ mph near the coast), heavy rainfall (widespread 3-5 inches with locally higher amounts over 8 inches toward the SC Midlands), and 2 EF-1 tornadoes (1 in Liberty County, GA and 1 in Chatham County, GA). 
2016 Sep 14-15 Julia Developed near Jacksonville, FL as a TS and moved north and then northeast near the GA coast and then southern SC coast before moving east away from the coast and weakening to a TD. The storm then meandered well offshore while strengthening into a TS again and then weakening into a TD before dissipating.
2016 Oct 7-8 Matthew Moved north and then northwest through the Caribbean Sea and then through the Bahamas while strengthening to a Category 4 hurricane. Tracked just off the east coast of FL and GA while weakening to a Category 1 storm before making landfall near McClellanville, SC with winds near 85 mph. Produced hurricane force wind gusts along the entire coast, significant coastal flooding from high storm tides (including a record level at Fort Pulaski), and very heavy rainfall (widespread 6 to 12 inches with locally higher amounts near 17 inches) which led to significant freshwater flooding. 
2017 Sep 10-11 Irma Made landfall in the FL Keys as a Cat 4 hurricane and then moved along the southwest coast of FL as a Category 3 hurricane. The storm then moved north near the west coast of FL while weakening to a TS before moving into southwest GA and continuing to weaken. Produced significant coastal flooding, rainfall flooding, and river flooding as well as near hurricane-force wind gusts and 4 tornadoes.
2019 Sep 4-5 Dorian Cat 3 hurricane slowly moved north off the GA coast and then more northeast off the SC coast while weakening to a Cat 2 hurricane. Produced sustained tropical storm force winds, hurricane force wind gusts, heavy rain and some coastal flooding, especially along the SC coast. 
2020 May 27 Bertha Developed just off the SC coast and made landfall near Isle of Palms, SC as a TS. Produced some heavy rain and minor wind damage. 
2020 Aug 3 Isaias Tracked north-northeast just off the GA/SC coasts as a TS before strengthening to a Cat 1 hurricane ~50 miles east of Charleston, SC. Produced minimal impacts, including heavy rain, mainly northeast of Charleston.  

 

References: