Weather News

Hurricane Dorian by the numbers: How it compared with Matthew, Irma in Beaufort Co.

It was hard to talk about Hurricane Dorian in Beaufort County without hearing about Hurricane Matthew.

As the South Carolina coast prepared for the storms winds and rain, everyone from local officials to the casual passerby compared the storm to Matthew and hoped the damage wouldn’t come close.

Beaufort County was lucky.

Dorian, at one time projected to make landfall in South Carolina, bumbled up the coast and brought relatively mild damage to the county Wednesday night and into Thursday.

How did Dorian compare to past storms in our area? Check it out:

Dorian — Sept. 5, 2019

  • Highest wind speed: 67 mph at the Hilton Head Island Airport. Dorian was notable because of how slowly the storm moved — It sat over the Bahamas for 36 hours and moved through South Carolina at around 10 mph.

  • Tallest storm surge: At Fort Pulaski, the nearest location for tidal measurement by the National Weather Service, tide levels topped at 9.6 feet.
  • Highest total rainfall: 2.44 inches in Bluffton
  • Closest storm came to county: 100 miles offshore
  • Downed trees: 87 that were blocking roadways in Beaufort County.
  • When peak of storm hit: 2 a.m. Sept. 5
  • Beaufort County power losses: 22,000 on Sept. 5
  • Category: 3 when it passed offshore, but Beaufort County saw tropical storm-force winds
  • Evacuation duration: About three days; noon Sept. 2 to afternoon of Sept. 5; Hilton Head bridges were never closed
Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division work to remove a downed tree from a road in Hilton Head Plantation during Hurricane Dorian on Thursday, September 5, 2019 in Hilton Head Island, SC. Jeff Siner

Michael — Oct. 11, 2018

  • Highest wind speed: Gusts up to 59 mph measured on Daufuskie Island.
  • Tallest storm surge: Although not defined as a “storm surge,” the high tide was about one foot higher than usual in the days leading up to the storm.
  • Highest total rainfall: 3.28 inches in Beaufort
  • Downed trees: 15 to 20, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office
  • Closest storm came to county: 150 to 200 miles inland
  • When peak of storm hit: Between 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. Oct. 11.
  • Beaufort County power losses: 15,600 people on Oct. 11.
  • Category: Tropical Storm
  • Evacuation duration: None; Hilton Head bridges were never closed
A couple stands in the foamy surf watching as the Cherry Grove Pier is battered by high waves on Thursday. After coming ashore as a category 4 Hurricane in Florida, the remnants of Hurricane Michael passed through the Grand Strand bringing high winds, and coastal flooding on Thursday. Oct. 11, 2018 Jason Lee

Florence — Sept. 14, 2018

  • Highest wind speed: Gusts up to 71 mph were recorded at the Beaufort Airport
  • Tallest storm surge: None
  • Highest total rainfall: Less than one inch
  • Closest storm came to county: Florence hit the North Carolina coast and hovered 15 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach before turning north.
  • When peak of storm hit: Afternoon of Sept. 14 through evening Sept. 15.
  • Beaufort County power losses: 808 people as of Sept. 14.
  • Category: Tropical Storm
  • Evacuation duration: Just under 24 hours. The order was announced Sept. 10 and was lifted for Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties one hour before it was supposed to go into effect at noon Sept. 11.
May River-Florence.jpeg
Shot of May River the morning with thought Hurricane Florence was to hit us. Collins Doughtie Submitted

Irma — Sept. 11, 2017

  • Highest wind speed: 75 mph on Parris Island
  • Tallest storm surge: The closest instrument to measure the surge, at Fort Pulaski, 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 Georgia and continuing to weaken

  • When peak of storm hit: Noon Sept. 11, 2017
  • Beaufort County power losses: 37,000
  • Category: Tropical Storm
  • Evacuation Duration: About three days; 10 a.m. Sept. 9 to 9:15 a.m. Sept. 12
Residents and visitors admire the accidental Hilton Head Island tourist attraction, which was deposited on Hilton Head Island by Tropical Storm Irma. Daleyna Earley -

Matthew — Oct. 8, 2016

  • 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 was 8.73-foot surge at the May River.
  • Highest total rainfall: 14.04 inches on Hilton Head
  • Downed trees: 120,000 lost 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 losses: 80,000

  • Category: 2 (but Beaufort County saw Category 1 winds on land)
  • Evacuation duration: About five days; afternoon of Oct. 4 to evening of Oct. 9; Hilton Head bridge reopened 2:45 p.m. Oct. 11.
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Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island after Hurricane Matthew struck in October 2016. The Island Packet

Hermine — Sept. 2, 2016

  • Highest wind speed: 55 mph on Hilton Head Island
  • Tallest storm surge: Less than one foot
  • Highest total rainfall: 3 to 5 inches
  • Closest storm came to the county: 26 miles inland
  • When peak of the storm hit: Morning of Sept. 2, 2016
  • Beaufort County power losses: 15,000
  • Category: Tropical Storm
  • Evacuation duration: None
TS Hermine 1
Bonita Peele, of Concord, N.C., walks through wind and blowing sand from Tropical Storm Hermine on Hilton Head Island's South Forest Beach the morning of Sept. 2, 2016. Having watched coverage of tropical systems over the years, Peele decided to come out and see a storm for herself. "I think it's wonderful to experience it," she said. "It's God in action." Jay Karr

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.
Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.