2019 proved to be another busy year for our weather, particularly when it comes to coastal flooding. Beyond the flooding, though, we had plenty of heat and another brush with a hurricane. (Seems pretty standard nowadays, no?) Let’s dig into the numbers…
This was, by all measures, a record year for coastal flooding in the Charleston area.
- There were 89 coastal flooding events recorded in 2019 based on water levels at or above 7.0′ MLLW in Charleston Harbor. This blows away any previous year on record (records start in 1980) and more than doubles the number of coastal flooding events that occurred in 2018 (42).
- The next most active year? 2015, with 58 events (including the 2015 Flood).
- September and October of 2019 became the third and second most active coastal flooding months, with 16 and 18 events respectively. October 2015 remains the most active with 22 events.
- Of 2019’s coastal flooding events, 26 topped out above 7.5′ MLLW (where moderate flooding begins). Four of those events were major coastal flooding events exceeding 8′. The most recent occurrence? the morning of Christmas Eve, when the tide topped out at 8.06′, shutting down many roads across downtown Charleston.
- It has been 19 months since our last coastal flood-free month (May, 2018).
Kudos to the National Weather Service Charleston, SC forecast office for compiling a great coastal flooding resource this year, from which I was able to derive many of these data points.
It was another very warm year across the Lowcountry, as we did more time than we should over the century mark and have had a largely very mild winter so far. Some of the numbers…
- 68°: The average temperature at the airport, good for fourth warmest on record.
- Five: As in five straight years of a top-ten warmest year on record at the airport, ranging from 2015-2019. (Records go back to 1938.)
- Six of the top ten warmest years on record happened this decade. (One could even say seven, if you count 2011 tying 2012’s 67.3° average temperature.)
- Memorial Day was the hottest on record at the airport. There were four consecutive days of 100°+ heat (May 26-29), the second-longest streak of 100° days on record. (The longest? Seven days between July 8 and July 14, 1986.)
Our brush with Dorian
It wasn’t a year in the late 2010s without some sort of a brush with a tropical system, and 2019 was no exception. This year’s scare was Dorian, a storm that was a monster Category 5 for the Abacos, doing tremendous damage from which those islands of the Bahamas are still working to recover from.
Once again, we got very lucky. Dorian recurved just 60 or so miles off the coast, and never made landfall in South Carolina. Some facts and figures from Dorian:
- Its peak storm surge of 3-3.5′ coincided with low tide, keeping tidal inundation relatively in check and producing only minor flooding in parts of downtown.
- Rain totals varied widely across the area, from 1″ or so in West Ashley to 9-12″ east of the Cooper.
- Winds gusted as high as 80 MPH at the Shutes Folly WeatherFlow station within Charleston Harbor. Buoy 41004, about 47 miles off the coast of Charleston, gusted to 98 MPH.
- 441,000 people evacuated from the South Carolina coast for Dorian. (SCEMD)
The National Weather Service in Charleston has an excellent recap of Dorian’s impacts on southeast SC on its website.
All in all, 2019 was another pretty busy year in the world of weather. And if I had to guess, 2020 will bring more of the same warmth, coastal flooding issues, and an uncomfortable brush with a tropical system. And like 2019, we’ll get through it together.