Isaias Spares Charleston, but Damages Parts of the Pee Dee Region

Aug 5, 2020

The city of Charleston may have been spared, but many residents of Myrtle Beach area are beginning cleanup efforts from Hurricane Isaias, which came ashore late Tuesday night near the border of North Carolina.

Isaias began its journey to the east of the Lesser Antilles on July 28 before crossing the island chain and exiting into the Caribbean Sea where it gained Tropical Storm status late July 29th. Isaias, maintaining tropical storm strength, crossed the Dominican Republic delivering heavy rainfall and strong winds to Hispaniola and the neighboring island of Puerto Rico on July 30th. Flooding from the storm’s heavy rains led to the death of at least one person in Puerto Rico according to the island’s Department of Public Safety.

Tropical Storm Isaias continued northwest and approached the Bahamas, strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane and lashing the islands with heavy rainfall, storm surge, and strong winds. Grand Bahama, and other neighboring islands, reported over a foot of rain with minor flooding, downed trees, and power outages. No deaths were reported in the island nation which continues to clean up from the devastation Hurricane Dorian brought last year.

Weakening slightly back down to a strong tropical storm Isaias took aim at the east coast of the Sunshine State. Fortunately, the center of circulation never made landfall in Florida as it turned northward off the coast of Miami and Fort Lauderdale skirting the coast. Outer rain bands produced light to moderate rainfall across east coast coastlines from Miami to Jacksonville from Sunday through Monday morning before Isaias shifted north-northwest, away from the coast and towards the Carolinas, intensifying once more into a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 85 mph. Hurricane Isaias ultimately made landfall in southern North Carolina around 11:10 PM EDT near Ocean Isle Beach.

South Carolina was left largely unscathed especially in the LowCounty. Initial rainfall amount between 1 and 2 inches fell near the Charleston area along with tropical storm-force wind gusts. Aside from a few power outages across the city, Charleston managed to avoid another hurricane.

The Pee Dee region, however, received the majority of Isaias' hazards as the hurricane quickly approached the coastline late Tuesday night. Hurricane-force wind gusts and storm surge heights between 3 to 5 feet damaged coastal structures, homes, and businesses through the overnight into Tuesday.

The Cherry Grove section of North Myrtle Beach was hit particularly hard by the Category 1 hurricane with Horry County first responders conducting several rescue operations in the dead of night as homes began to flood. Officials say at one point Cherry Grove was under about four-feet of water from the storm surge inundation.

Residents of Myrtle Beach spent much of Tuesday morning assessing and cleaning up the damage left behind by Hurricane Isaias.

Unfortunately the storm surge occurred close to high tide Monday evening which resulted in more than 100 sea turtles, nested on the beach, drowning. The turtles were found recently hatched and dead under about four feet of sand.

“They either suffocated or drowned last night,” Linda Mataya with North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol said. “The hatchlings were ready to emerge, but apparently, they were all ready last night when the surge hit.”

While Isaias has continued northward into the Northeast, the effects of the storm are expected to be felt over the next few days with flooding possible near rivers and streams. Forecasters say minor flooding is possible in the Waccamaw River in Conway, with high tide events possibly causing minor coastal flooding.

Conway Spokeswoman June Wood said the Waccamaw River could reach moderate flood status in the next couple of days. However, Conway officials do not expect any road closures or flooded homes.

The storm is responsible for at least two deaths in North Carolina.

Isaias is forecast to continue tracking northward through the Northeast Tuesday night delivering tropical storm-force winds, heavy rainfall, and deadly tornadoes before crossing into Quebec Wednesday and likely dissipating over Canada’s far north.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center is monitoring a tropical wave to the southwest of Bermuda. This area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms has a low chance of developing over the next two to five days due to an abundant amount of dry air surrounding the system which will limit development. Atmospheric conditions across much of the Atlantic are expected to be unfavorable for tropical development over the next several days with weather models not indicating any areas of potential development.

The peak of hurricane season has only just begun, as nearly 80 percent of all tropical storms occur in August, September and October. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from mid-August through mid-October, tropical cyclone activity spikes, accounting for 78 percent of the tropical storm days, 87 percent of the Category 1 and 2 hurricane days, and a staggering 96 percent of the major (Category 3, 4 and 5) hurricane days.

2020 is the sixth straight year that a tropical storm affected the South Carolina coast. Isaias tracked similar to Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019. However, both of these past storms approached South Carolina with more menacing winds. Additionally, unlike Matthew and Dorian, Isaias did not prompt evacuations in South Carolina, and the state did not open any shelters, although the American Red Cross said it had six ready with supplies and staff.

There is still a long way to go with the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and we are just entering into the peak months of activity.