With the focus on Hurricane Irma and memories fresh of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, perhaps this morning is a good time to reflect on what hurricanes of the past have wrought. Without modern warnings, things could be much worse.
Hurricanes are nothing new to South Carolinians. Hurricanes and tropical storms have been a way of life for the Palmetto State since the first settlers set foot on its rich soil.
Hugo in 1989 is the still the hurricane by which other modern-day storms are measured in South Carolina, but even then, there were warnings that saved lives.
Not so for the great storms long ago.
According to “History of Storms on the South Carolina Coast” by Laylon Wayne Jordan and “South Carolina Hurricanes” by John C. Purvis:
• The Spanish Repulse Hurricane was the first recorded hurricane to hit North America. It made landfall just below Charleston on Sept. 4, 1686, and lasted two days.
The storm came just in time to repulse an attack by the Spanish on the lower Carolina settlements, probably near modern day Folly Beach. Unfortunately, it also caused much damage to the settlement, driving ships onto land, destroying crops and houses and killing many people.
• The second recorded hurricane, known as the Rising Sun Hurricane, also made landfall near Charleston. It hit on Sept. 14, 1700. It flooded the streets of the city, ruined crops and property and caused at least 70 deaths.
The storm damaged numerous ships, including a Scottish vessel called the Rising Sun, killing all sailors on board.
• The Great Carolina Hurricane, a Category 3 storm, made landfall just below Savannah on Sept. 7, 1854. It lasted two days and caused great property damage from high winds and storm surge in Charleston.
• On Aug. 25, 1885, an unnamed Category 2 hurricane hit Charleston. It destroyed all except one of the city’s wharves and damaged 90 percent of its buildings, causing damage totaling $2 million. Many lives were lost in the storm.
For more than 300 years, South Carolina and its neighboring states have faced major and minor hurricanes and tropical storms – hundreds of them. In the early days, the community had little or no warning that the disastrous storms were about to strike.
We can be thankful today that we have warnings about hurricanes, giving us time to be prepared. Many lives are thereby saved.