National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

2016 was an historic year in local weather:

  • The Carolinas were affected by five tropical cyclones or their remnants including Tropical Storms Bonnie, Colin, Hermine, Julia, and Hurricane Matthew.
  • Hurricane Matthew brought unprecedented flooding inland, along with wind damage and a significant storm surge to the coast. Matthew helped make 2016 the second wettest year on record in Florence, SC, and the 5th wettest in Wilmington, NC.
  • Summer temperatures were consistently some of the hottest on record, boosting 2016 up to the 7th hottest year on record in Florence, and the 9th hottest year in Wilmington's 140+ year climate history.


JANUARY: Although the first two weeks of January were uneventful, a nor’easter (strong coastal storm) on January 15th dropped over an inch of rain along the coast. A unique meteorological event called a gravity wave produced wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph during the evening of the 15th as the rainfall ended. The coldest temperatures of the entire year occurred on January 19th and 20th when lows dipped to 22 degrees in Myrtle Beach, 21 in Wilmington and Lumberton, and 19 in Florence. On January 21st and 22nd up to two-tenths of an inch of freezing rain accumulated near and west of Interstate 95 affecting the towns of St. Pauls, Bennettsville, and Darlington. This same storm dropped up to three inches of rain near Southport accompanied by wind gusts of 30-40 mph.  A period of light snow fell in Florence and North Myrtle Beach early in the morning on January 23rd, but with no accumulation.


Large waves and strong winds at Wrightsville Beach during the Feb 7th Nor'easter

FEBRUARY: On February 7th a nor’easter brought 1-2 inches of rain and 45 mph winds to the coast. Winds at the Frying Pan Shoals buoy offshore reached 62 mph. Small amounts of freezing rain and sleet fell in the Wilmington area on February 12th and in the Lumberton area on February 15th. No significant travel problems were noted. A severe weather outbreak on February 24th produced large hail across Robeson and Bladen counties, and a 66 mph wind gust was measured just south of Bennettsville, SC. Tornadoes also touched down near Cheraw, SC and just east of Mt. Olive, NC.

Meteorological winter consists of the three months of December, January, and February, and this one was the 5th wettest ever in Wilmington, and 7th wettest ever in Florence thanks to one of the most powerful El Nino weather patterns in recent history.


MARCH: Wilmington recorded its 4th warmest March ever, and Florence had its 5th warmest March on record. Temperatures were particularly warm from the 8th through the 19th where every day had highs in the 70s or 80s.


APRIL: Quiet weather persisted most of the month of April. The last subfreezing temperatures of the season occurred on April 10th at locations from Lumberton and Elizabethtown, NC to McColl, SC.


MAY: Severe thunderstorms developed on May 2nd and 3rd across Southeastern North Carolina. Tennis ball sized hail was reported from the town of Tobermory in Bladen County along with widespread damage to trees and crops. On May 5th a EF1 tornado with estimated 95 mph winds touched down in the Landfall community east of Wilmington. Another severe weather outbreak on May 13th produced hail the size of quarters in Florence along with winds strong enough to flip campers over in Surfside Beach, SC.

Large hail reports from May 3, 2016.  Hail up to 2.5 inches in diameter was reported from Tobermory in Bladen County, NC.

Tornado damage on May 5, 2016 in the Queens Point neighborhood just east of Wilmington in New Hanover County, NC.  This tornado cut a 1.75 mile long path from the Landfall community across Howe Creek to Middle Sound Loop Road.  A significant number of homes were damaged as well as a large number of trees.  Winds were estimated to have reached 95 mph.


For the second year in a row, an early out-of-season tropical storm developed along the Southeast coast in May. Bonnie became a tropical storm on May 28th while approaching the Gulf Stream east of Jacksonville, FL. The storm weakened to a tropical depression before moving ashore at Isle of Palms, SC on May 29th. After weakening further on May 30th and becoming a post-tropical low over eastern South Carolina, Bonnie regained tropical characteristics near Cape Lookout, NC on June 1st as it moved back out to sea. Impacts to the Carolinas were limited to heavy rainfall, including over 5 inches in Holden Beach, NC. There was one fatality due to strong rip currents at Carolina Beach, NC.


JUNE: Tropical Storm Colin developed over the Gulf of Mexico on June 5th and moved across north Florida on June 7th. The system lost its tropical characteristics while located just off the Carolina coast later that day. Rainfall amounts up to 3.85 inches near occurred near Georgetown, SC, with around 3 inches on Topsail Island, NC. Tropical storm-force winds remained offshore of the South and North Carolina coast.

A severe thunderstorm on June 15, 2016 blew down this restaurant sign in North Myrtle Beach, SC

Severe thunderstorms across eastern South Carolina on June 15th blew down trees and even caused some structural damage in North Myrtle Beach. Four people were taken to the hospital after being struck by lightning in Murrells Inlet, SC. Another round of severe storms on June 17th hit the Georgetown, SC area particularly hard with widespread damage reported to trees. Another significant outbreak occurred on June 24th again affecting eastern South Carolina. Quarter sized hail in Olanta, SC was accompanied by strong thunderstorm wind gusts extending eastward all the way to Myrtle Beach.



Severe thunderstorms damaged this chicken farm in Ammon, NC on July 15, 2016

JULY: A long streak of unusually persistent heat developed in July, with temperatures for the month averaging 2 to 4 degrees above normal. Interestingly no 100 degree temperatures occurred; rather we had a sustained period of daytime highs in the 90s coupled with very warm nighttime temperatures.

This humid tropical airmass yielded scattered thunderstorms most afternoons. In Wilmington, 21 out of 31 days in July experienced a thunderstorm. Severe thunderstorms with strong winds developed on a large number of dates this month. Some of the most significant storm reports included golf ball sized hail in Georgetown, SC on July 9th, 61 mph wind gusts recorded in North Myrtle Beach on July 10th, significant damage to a farm in Ammon, NC on July 15th, and roof damage to a school in Johnsonville, SC on July 16th.


AUGUST: Persistent heat continued into August with monthly temperatures about 3 degrees above normal. Just like in July there wasn’t any 100 degree heat, just continuously above-normal temperatures for the entire month. All-time records were broken for the most consecutive days with low temperatures 70 degrees or warmer in Wilmington (58 days from June 27th to August 23rd) and Florence (62 days from June 22nd to August 22nd). Meteorological summer temperatures (June through August) were the hottest ever observed in Florence and the 3rd hottest ever in Wilmington. 

Interestingly, and perhaps a bit alarmingly, four of the five hottest summers in Wilmington's recorded history have occurred since 2010.


September 2016 rainfall amounts, anomalies, and percent of normal

SEPTEMBER: The tropics became very active in September with two named systems affecting the Carolinas. Hurricane Hermine struck the Florida Gulf Coast on September 2nd. Hermine moved through coastal South and North Carolina later that day while maintaining itself as a tropical storm. Flash flooding occurred due to 6 to 10 inches of rain. Wind gusts of 40 to 55 mph were measured at the coast. Less than two weeks later, Tropical Storm Julia formed along the Florida east coast on September 13th. Although the system degenerated off the South Carolina coast on September 18th, rainfall amounts over 3 inches fell on parts of coastal South Carolina. Additional heavy rainfall occurred September 22nd and 23rd along a stalled front. With two tropical systems and the slow moving front late in the month, monthly rainfall totals of 12 to 18 inches were recorded over much of the coastal Carolinas.

It was the 2nd wettest September in history in Florence, SC, and the 8th wettest in Wilmington.  Temperatures ranged from 2 to 4 degrees above normal during the month.


OCTOBER: Hurricane Matthew, briefly a category five with 160 mph winds on September 29th in the Caribbean Sea, made landfall as a category one hurricane with 75 mph winds near McClellanville, SC on October 8th. As Matthew moved along the South Carolina coast during the afternoon, exceptionally heavy rain totaling 10 to 18 inches fell across large sections of eastern South and North Carolina. Soils were already saturated from heavy rainfall in September, so deadly flash flooding immediately resulted.  This was followed over the next few days by disastrous river flooding along portions of the Cape Fear, Northeast Cape Fear, Pee Dee, Waccamaw, and Lumber Rivers. The communities of Fair Bluff, Elizabethtown, Lumberton, Nichols, Kingstree, Socastee, and Conway suffered tremendous property damage and some areas were inaccessible for over 10 days. Portions of Interstate 95 and U.S. Highways 501, 701, and 74 were closed due to high water. Billions of dollars in damage and 32 fatalities was the unfortunate result of Matthew’s trek across the eastern Carolinas.

Hurricane Matthew landfall radar loop from the Charleston, SC NWS Doppler Radar.  October 8, 2016

Hurricane Matthew radar loop after its South Carolina landfall as viewed from the NWS radar site near Shallotte, NC.  October 8, 2016

Hurricane Matthew's storm surge damage in Ocean Isle Beach, NC.  Dozens of homes on the east end of Oak Island were damaged, and beach erosion was tremendous at this location.  No sand dunes remain between the ocean and the first row of homes.

Hurricane Matthew's flooding along the Waccamaw River destroyed downtown Fair Bluff, NC.

Hurricane's Matthew's flooding on the Lumber River closed Interstate 95 in the city of Lumberton, NC.  The official Lumber River gauge failed during the storm, but based on high water marks the river probably exceeded 25 feet, setting a new all-time record.

additional photos of Hurricane Matthew's storm damage are available HERE on the NWS Wilmington, NC Facebook page

Matthew’s storm surge was around 6 feet near the NC/SC State Line. The Cape Fear River at Wilmington reached its highest ever level during Matthew, exceeding Hurricane Hazel’s flooding from 1954. Wind gusts reached 82 mph at Fort Fisher, NC; 74 mph in Myrtle Beach; 70 mph in Wilmington; and 67 mph in Florence, SC. 

An EF0 tornado even developed in Matthew's outer rain bands during the morning of October 8th in North Myrtle Beach, cutting a swath 1.5 miles long across residential areas and a golf course. Winds associated with the tornado were estimated as high as 85 mph. 

The remainder of October was extremely dry with only a few light showers on October 21st.


NOVEMBER: In stark contrast to the wet weather pattern from July through early October, November's weather was quite dry and uneventful. The only significant storm system was on November 13th when over an inch of rain fell near the coast with lesser totals inland. The first widespread freeze of the season occurred on November 21st.  This made the growing season 279 days long in Myrtle Beach, and 267 days in both Wilmington and Florence.  Those are over 3 weeks longer than average.  Due to an early April freeze in Lumberton, the growing season there was only 223 days long.


DECEMBER: A typical winter pattern developed across the Carolinas during December with alternating periods of cool and warm weather accompanied by regular rainfall. Thunderstorms developed on December 12th, dropping locally heavy rainfall inland.  Wind gusts reached 47 mph out at the Frying Pan Shoals buoy offshore as the storms passed by.  The coolest temperatures of the month occurred only a few days later on December 16th with lower to mid 20s reported from most locations.




Columns include monthly average temperatures and departures from normal, warmest and coolest temperatures recorded within each month, and monthly precipitation totals and departures from normal.

 *** Wilmington NC   2016 Climate Data - Preliminary ***

    Avg Hi/Dep  Avg Lo/Dep Avg T/Dep  Warmest   Coolest   Precip/Dep
JAN  54.4/-2.0  34.6/-1.0  44.5/-1.5  71/31th   21/20th   4.45/+0.69
FEB  59.2/-0.7  39.2/+1.3  49.2/+0.3  76/24th   21/14th   7.62/+4.00
MAR  72.5/+6.1  50.4/+6.6  61.4/+6.3  88/16th   34/5th    2.83/-1.38
APR  73.9/-0.3  51.6/-0.0  62.8/-0.1  89/19th   35/10th   1.91/-0.91
MAY  79.7/-1.0  60.9/+0.9  70.3/-0.1  91/9th    48/6th    5.88/+1.39
JUN  87.9/+1.0  69.5/+0.8  78.7/+0.9  96/12th   58/20th   6.63/+1.45
JUL  92.6/+2.9  74.8/+2.2  83.7/+2.6  98/27th   70/22nd   4.71/-2.77
AUG  90.0/+1.9  73.8/+2.5  81.9/+2.2  95/21st   65/24th   7.51/+0.10
SEP  84.4/+1.1  69.8/+4.2  77.3/+2.7  94/8th    62/5th   15.86/+8.02
OCT  77.6/+1.9  57.1/+2.5  67.4/+2.2  85/19th   43/26th   6.78/+2.89
NOV  67.4/-0.6  42.6/-2.8  55.0/-1.7  82/3rd    28/23rd   2.10/-1.19
DEC  60.3/+1.0  39.1/+1.3  49.7/+1.1  78/18th   23/16th   5.36/+1.74
ANN  75.0/+0.9  55.3/+1.5  65.2/+1.2  98 7/27   21 2/14  71.64/+14.03

Number of days with Temperatures...
 90 degrees of higher: 62 (22 more than normal)
 32 degrees or lower:  39 (4 more than normal)

Heating degree days: 2229 (183 fewer than normal)
Cooling degree days: 2397 (353 more than normal)

Number of days with precipitation...
 0.01" or greater: 132 (3 fewer than normal)
 0.10" or greater: 84 (6 more than normal)
 0.50" or greater: 43 (8 more than normal)
 1.00" or greater: 25 (8 more than normal)

Snow or sleet fell on 2 days.
Measurable snow or sleet did not occur.

Average wind speed: 7.7 MPH
Maximum 2-minute wind speed: 47 MPH on October 8th (Hurricane Matthew)
Maximum 5-second wind gust: 70 MPH on October 8th (Hurricane Matthew)

 *** Florence SC   2016 Climate Data - Preliminary ***

    Avg Hi/Dep  Avg Lo/Dep  Avg T/Dep  Warmest   Coolest   Precip/Dep
JAN  52.6/-2.7  33.1/-1.5   42.8/-2.1  68/31st   19/19th   2.13/-1.10
FEB  57.2/-2.4  37.9/+0.4   47.6/-0.9  77/24th   21/14th   5.33/+2.41
MAR  73.3/+5.7  48.3/+4.7   60.8/+5.2  87/16th   34/22nd   1.63/-1.70
APR  75.4/-0.4  52.2/+1.5   63.8/+0.5  89/19th   33/10th   5.34/+2.72
MAY  81.1/-1.6  61.6/+2.2   71.4/+0.3  91/9th    50/6th    6.66/+3.40
JUN  91.1/+2.7  70.9/+2.9   81.0/+2.8  97/23rd   63/19th   3.96/-0.66
JUL  95.2/+4.2  74.7/+3.3   85.0/+3.8  98/5th    71/20th   6.60/+1.34
AUG  93.1/+3.7  73.6/+3.1   83.3/+3.4  98/27th   64/25th   1.23/-4.01
SEP  87.0/+2.8  69.5/+5.2   78.3/+4.1  95/1st    62/5th    9.82/+6.15
OCT  79.2/+3.7  56.4/+3.3   67.8/+3.5  88/19th   39/23rd  12.77/+9.69
NOV  69.1/+2.0  43.0/-0.7   56.0/+0.6  84/3rd    29/22nd   0.93/-1.74
DEC  58.9/+1.1  39.0/+2.5   48.9/+1.8  79/18th   25/16th   4.57/+1.56
ANN  76.1/+1.5  55.0/+2.2   65.6/+1.9  98 8/27   19 1/19  60.97/+18.06

Number of days with Temperatures...
 90 degrees of higher: 94 (38 more than normal)
 32 degrees or lower:  39 (1 less than normal)

Heating degree days: 2271 (253 fewer than normal)
Cooling degree days: 2586 (524 more than normal)

Number of days with precipitation...
 0.01" or greater: 115 (9 more than normal)
 0.10" or greater: 72  (2 more than normal)
 0.50" or greater: 34  (5 more than normal)
 1.00" or greater: 17  (5 more than normal)

Snow or sleet fell on 2 days.

Average wind speed: 6.9 MPH
Maximum 2-minute wind speed: 52 MPH on July 7th (Severe Thunderstorm)
Maximum 5-second wind gust: 67 MPH on October 8th (Hurricane Matthew)

*** North Myrtle Beach SC   2016 Climate Data - Preliminary ***

    Avg Hi/Dep Avg Lo/Dep  Avg T/Dep  Warmest   Coolest   Precip/Dep
JAN  53.7/-1.4  35.2/-1.0  44.4/-1.3   68/1st   22/20th   1.90/-1.79
FEB  57.2/-0.2  39.8/+1.2  48.5/+0.5   74/21st  23/14th   6.17/+2.75
MAR  69.6/+5.5  51.2/+6.9  51.2/+6.2   83/28th  36/22nd   1.47/-2.45
APR  72.5/+1.2  53.0/+1.1  62.8/+1.2   88/19th  36/10th   0.99/-1.97
MAY  78.5/-0.1  62.8/+2.0  70.7/+1.0   89/8th   47/6th    5.21/+1.80
JUN  86.9/+2.4  72.1/+2.8  79.5/+2.6   96/12th  61/20th   3.24/-1.40
JUL  90.6/+3.0  76.1/+3.0  80.3/+3.0   97/30th  71/19th   2.66/-3.24
AUG  88.6/+2.5  75.8/+4.1  82.2/+3.3   95/21st  68/25th   4.00/-3.41
SEP  84.6/+1.2  70.2/+3.3  77.4/+2.3   92/7th   61/5th   18.37/+12.09
OCT  77.2/+2.1  58.5/+2.8  67.8/+2.4   84/2nd   47/26th   9.38/+5.50
NOV  67.1/+0.5  44.8/-1.6  55.9/-0.6   82/3rd   31/22nd   0.18/-2.86
DEC  60.1/+1.6  41.2/+2.2  50.7/+1.9   74/24th  27/16th   2.62/-0.84
ANN  73.9/+1.5  56.7/+2.1  65.3/+1.8   97 7/30  22 1/20  56.19/+4.18

Number of days with Temperatures...
 90 degrees of higher: 31 (15 more than normal)
 32 degrees or lower:  29 (1 fewer than normal)

Heating degree days: 2149 (299 fewer than normal)
Cooling degree days: 2370 (467 more than normal)

Number of days with precipitation...
 0.01" or greater: 91
 0.10" or greater: 58
 0.50" or greater: 31
 1.00" or greater: 17

Snow or sleet fell on 2 days.

Average wind speed: 7.6 MPH
Maximum 2-minute wind speed: 44 MPH on September 2nd (Tropical Storm Hermine)
Maximum 5-second wind gust: 70 MPH on October 8th (Hurricane Matthew)

 *** Lumberton NC    2016 Climate Data - Preliminary ***

    Avg Hi/Dep Avg Lo/Dep  Avg T/Dep  Warmest   Coolest   Precip/Dep
JAN  52.0/-1.7  33.2/0.0   42.6/-0.8  70/31st   21/19th   1.63/-1.34
FEB  57.1/-0.9  37.7/+2.1  47.4/+0.6  77/24th   22/14th   6.65/+3.75
MAR  72.6/+6.3  48.2/+6.2  60.4/+6.3  86/16th   32/22nd   1.18/-2.15
APR  75.0/+0.5  49.9/+0.9  62.4/+0.7  90/19th   29/10th   3.17/+0.35
MAY  81.1/-1.0  60.2/+2.6  70.6/+0.8  91/31st   47/16th   6.31/+3.26
JUN  91.8/+3.3  69.3/+1.9  80.6/+2.6 100/12th   57/9th    1.88/+4.34 
JUL  93.0/+2.0  73.2/+1.9  83.1/+2.0  97/30th   68/19th   7.66/+2.18
AUG  91.8/+3.5  72.3/+2.6  82.0/+3.0  96/26th   61/25th   4.03/-1.47
SEP  86.8/+3.1  67.8/+5.5  77.3/+4.3  94/8th    60/5th    7.20/+2.40
OCT  78.5/+3.0  54.1/+2.8  66.4/+3.0  86/1st    38/23rd  12.77/+10.20
NOV  68.4/+1.2  40.3/-1.1  54.3/+0.0  84/3rd    27/21st   0.87/-2.00
DEC  57.2/+0.4  36.7/+1.1  46.9/+0.7  77/18th   23/11th   4.30/+1.41
ANN  75.4/+1.5  53.6/+2.2  64.5/+1.9 100 6/12   21 1/19  57.65/+14.13

Number of days with Temperatures...
 90 degrees of higher: 93 (42 more than normal)
 32 degrees or lower:  48 (1 fewer than normal)

Heating degree days: 2445 (316 fewer than normal)
Cooling degree days: 2371 (461 more than normal)

Number of days with precipitation...
 0.01" or greater: 113
 0.10" or greater: 73
 0.50" or greater: 33
 1.00" or greater: 10

Snow or sleet fell on 1 day.

Average wind speed: 6.1 MPH
Maximum 2-minute wind speed: 49 MPH on October 8th (Hurricane Matthew)
Maximum 5-second wind gust: 67 MPH on October 8th (Hurricane Matthew)


Regional Rainfall Graphics for 2016

2016 rainfall totals estimated by Doppler radar.  Note the large rainfall totals exceeding 70 inches across portions of coastal North and South Carolina due to numerous tropical cyclones during the summer and fall of 2016. 

2016 rainfall departures from normal.  Note the large positive (wet) anomalies across portions of coastal North and South Carolina due to numerous tropical cyclones during the summer and fall of 2016.  Severe drought conditions intensified during the late summer and fall across the western Carolinas and Georgia.

Research and Page Author: Tim Armstrong
Page Created: January 1, 2017
Last Updated: January 1, 2017