Skip to content

South Carolina Floods – “A Thousand Year Rainfall”?

October 5, 2015

By Paul Homewood  




More nonsensical claims about “1000 year rainfall”.

Aljazeera report:


At least three people are known to have died in South Carolina in the worst flooding in living memory. Emergency services have been inundated with more than 700 requests for assistance.

The city of Charleston bore the brunt of the precipitation, although during Sunday the heaviest of the rain transferred northwards to affect the area from Columbia to Myrtle Beach.

"The city of Georgetown is predominantly under water," the city’s fire chief was quoted as saying.

Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s governor, had this to say about the floods: "When you think about what we’re sitting in right now. We are at a thousand year level of rain in parts of the low country. What does that mean? We haven’t seen this level of rain in the low country in a thousand years. That’s how big this is."

Haley’s comment is based on data analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

This suggests that every thousand years Charleston can expect to see a three day rainfall total of 434mm.

In fact, between Thursday and Saturday, 368mm of rain fell at Charleston airport. 292mm of this fell on Saturday alone. But there are unofficial reports of 615mm within Charleston County.

In the same period, downtown Charleston recorded 351mm, the highest three day total since records began in 1870.

The causes of the rain are complex. It is not directly linked to Hurricane Joaquin, which passed close to the eastern seaboard before heading off into the Atlantic.

Instead, an area of low pressure lying 5,000m above the southeastern US has coincided with a cold front.

Nevertheless, Joaquin is thought to have helped in the circulation of moist, tropical air around its eastern and northern flank, pushing it across the Carolinas.

This resulted in what meteorologists refer to as an "atmospheric river" which gave an almost endless supply of moisture.



Let’s look at the USHCN record for Charleston.

We see that twice there have been days when more than 10 inches fell – this compares with 11.5 inch on Saturday.





However, if we go a few miles up the coast to Georgetown, we not only find days above 10 inches, but that 11.89 inches fell on 16th September 1999.

So clearly there is nothing unprecedented about the single day rainfall this week in Charleston.





However, NOAA say Charleston recorded 351mm [13.8 inches], the highest three day total since records began in 1870.

That may be true of Charleston, but at Georgetown, they had exactly the same amount of rain in two days, in that 1999 storm.





And even that was not a record for S Carolina. The official record for a single day’s rain there was set at Myrtle Beach, again in September 1999, when 14.8 inches came down, more than in three days of “Once in a 1000 years” rainfall this week.




Not only that, but 2 inches fell the day before, making a 2-day total of 16.8 inches.





So once again, we find severe weather events hyped up as something they are not.

  1. Curious George permalink
    October 5, 2015 7:09 pm

    “The worst flooding in living memory.” Al Jazeera has a living memory of a 16-year old.

  2. October 5, 2015 7:46 pm

    Nice work Paul! Keep it up. 100 year event. Nonsense.

  3. duker permalink
    October 5, 2015 8:41 pm

    getting to a real 1 in 1000 yr event ( remember its a frequency prediction , so like all these sort of “1 in” situations can still be more common) would be a very steep hill to climb. Could it be ‘only’ a 1 in 75 years when the numbers come in based on the records for last 100 years

  4. Windsong permalink
    October 5, 2015 8:42 pm

    One thing to keep in mind is the large amount of urban sprawl that has occurred in the Columbia and Charleston areas of SC in recent years. For example, check a satellite view of the recent Boeing plant expansion at Charleston Intl Airport. Many southern metro areas have the same sprawl issue. Pavement, buildings and maintained green space (e.g. golf courses) shed water faster, overloading drainage systems. To use a military analogy, sprawl is a “force multiplier.”

  5. Gary H permalink
    October 5, 2015 9:05 pm

    Hell and High Water: The Flood of 1916 was well underway . .

    But even as the rain was tapering, another hurricane was brewing, and no one knew that it, too, was making its way west. This cyclone was forming in the mid-Atlantic, and it would make landfall in Charleston, South Carolina, on Friday night, July 14.

    ” On Saturday, July 15, 1916, the Blue Ridge region saw more rain than anyone anywhere had ever seen since such records had been kept. One spot in Altapass, near Grandfather Mountain, measured more than 22 inches of rain in 24 hours.”

  6. cheshirered permalink
    October 6, 2015 9:26 am

    This is so unfair. You can’t just go around constantly destroying their bogus propaganda with actual facts you know.

  7. dennisambler permalink
    October 6, 2015 10:04 am

    For some more weather history, check out “Extreme Weather – Extreme Claims”

    Click to access extreme_weather_extreme_claims.pdf

  8. joltinjoe permalink
    October 6, 2015 10:11 am

    Most of the people who remembered past severe rain storms are now dead and gone. The folks with the short memories work for the government agencies. The “1 in a thousand years” is a misstatement every time. A lot of rain to be sure but just don’t express it in a falsehood. Who has the historical knowledge to create these odds? Nobody.

  9. October 10, 2015 11:23 am

    In Germany the radio news changed it even to” the biggest flood since 1000 years”…. there seems to be a hidden several thousand year old flood record of South Carolina, possibly maderfom an acient priest caste…

    • permalink
      November 30, 2015 8:51 pm

      wow, didn’t realize S Carolina was around 1000 yrs ago… learn something new every day : )

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: