WTOC VIDEO: Storm floods roads, could mean record-setting month of rain

bheffernan@islandpacket.comFebruary 26, 2013 

An officer with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office uses her patrol vehicle to block the S.C. 170 exit onto eastbound U.S. 278 in Bluffton after heavy rain Tuesday morning caused it to flood.


A storm front moved severe weather through Beaufort and Jasper counties this today, flooding roads and prompting the National Weather Service to issue a tornado warning for parts of Beaufort County, including Dale.

That warning, which was issued at about 7:40 a.m. also applied to Charleston and Colleton counties. It had been lifted by 9 a.m. and lasted only 13 minutes in Beaufort County.

Today's rain may mean record-setting rain totals for the month.

This February is one of the wettest on record, with more than 9.5 inches of rainfall measured at Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport.

The record rainfall total for the month of February is 9.71 inches in 1874, according to the National Weather Service. Average rainfall for the month is just 3.69 inches.

Today's rain, coupled with already saturated soils, caused ponding of water on roadways and minor flooding of low lying or poor drainage areas. Flooding closed the ramp from westbound S.C. 170 to eastbound U.S. 278 this morning; the ramp from eastbound S.C. 170 -- coming from the Savannah area -- to eastbound U.S. 278 remained open.

Schools in several Georgia counties canceled school today because of flooding fears.

Beaufort County School District schools remain open, according to school district spokesman Jim Foster. However, water on the roadways made boarding buses and traveling slower than usual, as did additional traffic from parents who waited with their children in cars for pick-up at several bus stops.

There's a slight risk of severe thunderstorms this afternoon, too. A warm front crossed the area this morning, and a cold front will move through this afternoon hours. This combination could lead to thunderstorms with damaging winds. Tornadoes also are possible, and a tornado watch for coastal areas from Altamaha Sound, Ga. to Fernandina Beach, Fla. remains in effect until 3 p.m.

The storm is expected to clear by tonight, and rain is not expected for the rest of the week.

February's deluge comes after a particularly dry winter. January received only about a half-inch of rain, more than three inches below normal.

Despite some heavy showers earlier this month, portions of Beaufort County were rated has having "severe" drought last week, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. Almost 90 percent of the state is registering "moderate" drought or worse.

Drought levels are determined by a collaboration of several agencies including the National Weather Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center, which consider amounts of recent rainfall and soil moisture among other factors, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Emily Timte.

Related content:

Fishing industry suffers as drought worsens in Beaufort County, Feb. 7, 2013

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