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Anybody Wanna Talk About the Stormy Weather in South Carolina?

NOAA storm Dorian.jpg
NOAA Photo
Storms are not only more frequent so far this century, they're also causing a lot more damage -- even when they land far away.

Seemingly endless rounds of drenching storms are not your imagination. Data shows how much the weather has changed in the Palmetto State in the past 20 years.

A browse through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) Hurricane and Tropical Storms database, which runs from 1851 to 2020, is pretty enlightening.

In the 40 years (inclusive) from 1960 through 1999, DNR shows:

  • 39 named storms have affected South Carolina.
  • The word 'tornado' mentioned 18 times.
  • The word flood, or a variant, listed 19 times.
  • Words like 'heavy rainfall' listed 32 times.

In the 20 years (inclusive) from 2000 to 2020, DNR shows:

  • 47 named storms affected South Carolina.
  • The word 'flood,' or a variant, listed 22 times.
  • Words like 'heavy rainfall' listed 34 times.

Oh, did I forget to mention tornadoes? The word shows up at least 120 times this century. And A), that doesn't include 2021 yet, and B), several entries say something along the lines of 'several tornadoes,' which means more than 120 twisters.
I had a chat with Dr. Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina, over the data. In the audio story above, Dr. Cutter makes the case of why simply categorizing storms based on wind speed is no longer the best approach, and how the path South Carolina is on in managing bigger, badder, wetter, and certainly oftener storms is not sustainable.

Scott Morgan is the Upstate multimedia reporter for South Carolina Public Radio, based in Rock Hill. He cut his teeth as a newspaper reporter and editor in New Jersey before finding a home in public radio in Texas. Scott joined South Carolina Public Radio in March of 2019. His work has appeared in numerous national and regional publications as well as on NPR and MSNBC. He's won numerous state, regional, and national awards for his work including a national Edward R. Murrow.