How likely is South Carolina to be hit by a hurricane?

State - Regional

FILE – In this Sept. 12, 2018 photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Florence churns over the Atlantic Ocean heading for the U.S. east coast as seen from the International Space Station. Astronaut Alexander Gerst, who shot the photo, tweeted: “Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane? It’s chilling, even from space.” (Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA via AP)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — If you live in South Carolina, you know about the risk of hurricanes, but how likely are we to actually be hit by one?

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has been tracking tropical systems since 1851, and its findings show how likely South Carolina is to be impacted each year.

From 1851 to 2020, 255 systems have impacted the state. Of those, 131 have tracked into the state, 60 were a category 1 hurricane or higher, 43 made direct landfall on the coast and only four were major category 3 or higher landfalls.

This means that South Carolina has a 79.7% chance of being impacted by a tropical system each year, even if it doesn’t track directly through the state.

While the chance of being impacted by a system is pretty high, the number of storms that have actually made landfall is 43 since 1851. That means of the number of storms that have impacted South Carolina, only 16.9% of them made landfall on its coast.

Most storms that hit the South Carolina coast do in September, followed by August and then October. In September, there have been 3 strong storms of a category 3 or higher and one category 2 storm. August has had no strong storms category 3 or higher and 4 category 2 storms. October has had 2 storms with category 3 status or higher and one storm with a category 2 status.

Most storms that hit the coast are either a tropical storm or a category 1 hurricane.

The average size of a tropical system is 300 miles in diameter. While the storm might not go directly through the state, it can still be impacted by high winds, heavy rain and storms, coastal surges and tornadoes.

South Carolina has had three category 4 hurricanes hit the coast, but has never been hit by a category 5 storm. The three storms were Hurricane Hazel in 1954, which hit the North Carolina South Carolina state line; Hurricane Gracie in 1959, which hit Beaufort; and Hurricane Hugo in 1989 which hit the Isle of Palms.

The earliest storm to impact South Carolina on record was a tropical storm on February 3, 1952. The latest was a tropical storm on Dec. 2, 1925. A tropical storm or hurricane has never made landfall in the state later than Oct. 31.

The official Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, but can start earlier and end later than these dates.

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