Weather News

How will Dorian compare to Irma and Matthew’s rainfall, storm surge and wind in Beaufort County?

Water coming over new Harbour Town pier on Hilton Head as Hurricane Dorian approaches

The wind and rain started to pick up on Hilton Head Island, S.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 4, as the outer bands of Hurricane Dorian reached the island. Water was already lapping over the boards of the new Harbour Town pier by the afternoon.
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The wind and rain started to pick up on Hilton Head Island, S.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 4, as the outer bands of Hurricane Dorian reached the island. Water was already lapping over the boards of the new Harbour Town pier by the afternoon.

While it’s impossible to compare some of the Atlantic’s largest tropical systems, a look at the last two hurricanes that lashed Beaufort County with dangerous wind, rain and storm surge in the past three years can tell us a little more about what to anticipate from Hurricane Dorian.

Hurricane Dorian is expected to dump 6-12 inches of rain with storm surge of up to 4 to 7 feet. It should bring wind gusts up to 85 mph with sustained winds around 50 to 65 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 2 p.m. update.

The center of the Category 2 storm is now expected to track about 50 miles off Beaufort County’s coast, slightly closer than predicted at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Beaufort County evacuation orders have been in place for more than two days now ahead of the storm.

Forecasters are most worried about storm surge in Beaufort County as Dorian approaches.

“Those storm surge levels could be similar to Matthew or Irma, or worse,” Ron Morales, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Charleston said.

Since 2016, Beaufort County has endured 2 major tropical events — Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017.

Matthew was a lesson in wind for us,” Beaufort County Emergency Management director Lt. Col. Neil Baxley said in 2017. “Irma was a lesson in surge.”

Here is how those Dorian numbers compare with Irma and Matthew in Beaufort County.

Matthew Oct. 8 2016

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  • Highest wind speed: 88 mph on Hilton Head Island
  • Tallest storm surge: The closest instrument to measure the surge, at Fort Pulaski, recorded a 12.5 foot surge, a record for that tidal gauge. In Beaufort County, highest unofficially recorded amount a 8.73 foot surge at the May River.
  • Highest total rainfall: 14.04 inches on Hilton Head
  • Closest storm came to county: 5 to 10 miles offshore from Hilton Head Island
  • When peak of storm hit: 5 a.m. Oct. 8
  • Beaufort County power outages: 80,000

  • Category: 1
  • Evacuation duration: About five days; afternoon of Oct. 4 to evening of Oct. 9; Hilton Head bridge reopened 2:45 p.m. Oct. 11

Video of damage to Palmetto Bay Marina on Hilton Head Island.

Irma Sept. 11 2017

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  • Highest wind speed: 75 mph on Parris Island
  • Tallest storm surge: The closest instrument to measure the surge, at Fort Pulaski, recorded a 12.5 foot surge, recorded a 12.24 foot surge, the second highest on record. In Beaufort County, unofficially recorded amount a 8.73 foot surge at the May River.

  • Highest total rainfall: 7.44 inches near Pritchardville

  • Closest storm came to county: After making landfall in the Florida keys, Irma moved north near the west Florida coast while weakening to a tropical storm before moving into southwest GA and continuing to weaken

  • When peak of storm hit: Noon Sept. 11, 2017
  • Beaufort County power outages: 37,000
  • Category: Tropical Storm
  • Evacuation Duration: About three days; 10 a.m. Sept. 9 to 9:15 a.m. Sept. 12

Source: The National Weather Service, Island Packet archives

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Mandy Matney is an award-winning journalist and self-proclaimed shark enthusiast from Kansas. She worked for newspapers in Missouri and Illinois before she realized Midwestern winters are horrible, then moved to Hilton Head in 2016. She is the breaking news editor at the Island Packet.
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