Hurricane Ian delivered a final but powerful punch to the Carolinas yesterday, washing through coastal communities centered on Myrtle Beach, battering the shoreline stretching into the North Carolina Tidewater, flooding downtowns from Charleston to Wilmington, and sprinkling rare September traces of snow and sleet into the mountains of western North Carolina.
Though the storm rapidly weakened inland overnight, shedding its tropical characteristics over central North Carolina, its leftovers will bring up to 6 inches of heavy rain into parts of the southern Appalachians and mid-Atlantic this weekend.
Ian made its third official landfall as a hurricane on Friday at 2:05 PM ET near Georgetown, South Carolina, between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, as a Category 1 hurricane with sustained 85 mph winds.
Winds gusted to as high as 92 mph near Sullivan’s Island and Fort Sumter on entrance into Charleston Harbor shortly before 1 PM local.
Ian’s strong onshore winds north of Charleston pushed a significant storm surge and destructive waves into coastal towns along South Carolina’s Grand Strand, including Pawleys Island and Cherry Grove, where large sections of popular piers collapsed into violent Atlantic waters.
The NOAA tide gauge near Myrtle Beach measured its third highest water levels on record extending back to 1976, reaching 5.17 feet around 1:30 PM local as Ian moved ashore to the south.
Rainfall was widespread but especially heavy in the Charleston metro, where a strong rain band on the western side of Ian’s eye doused the city.
The rainfall – officially 5.57 inches in North Charleston on Friday – smashed a daily record, totaling what the city measures in a typical September, and becoming the 13th rainiest day on record for Charleston going back to 1937.
Other volunteer weather observers in the area measured rain totals as high as 8 inches through yesterday evening, while radar estimated over 10 inches of rain farther south along Folly Beach.
Even though the storm surge was minimized in Charleston Harbor due to a largely offshore flow, the rain came around the time of high tide, compounding flooding issues as rising waters were slow to drain.
Friday capped a deadly and devastating week during which Ian ravaged western Cuba early Tuesday and rapidly regrouped to deliver a catastrophic storm surge and extreme flooding to southwest Florida on Wednesday.
Yesterday, it was reported that a network of nearshore buoys run by Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured waves as high as 52 feet only about 150 miles southwest of where Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday. This was the highest wave measured in the program’s array of Gulf of Mexico sensors going back to 2007.
Large swell from Ian on Friday brought rough seas to the southeastern U.S., including 7 to 10-foot waves offshore South Florida beaches, which late Friday morning swept six beachgoers off a sidewalk leading down to South Point Park Pier in South Beach. The injured beachgoers were sent to area hospitals, but thankfully none with serious or life-threatening injuries.
After a very busy few weeks in the tropical Atlantic, things look to settle down in the days ahead.
A disturbance in the far eastern Atlantic has a high chance of development going into next week, but will be turning northwestward and is no threat to land for now. Otherwise, no tropical threats are expected this weekend and at least through the middle of next week.