HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - It is no secret that our area does not receive the amount of severe weather that other parts of the country see, so could violent tornadoes even happen here?
We all know about the infamous Myrtle Beach tornado of July 6, 2001, but that tornado wasn't "violent," as it was only rated F2. So could a violent tornado really hit our area?
In short, the answer is an astounding "yes." It has happened in the past, and it could very well happen again. For the proof, we need to go back about 29 years to the 1984 Carolinas Tornado Outbreak.
This outbreak is perhaps unprecedented in the history of either of the Carolinas; North Carolina and South Carolina each had 11 confirmed tornado touchdowns. However, it wasn't necessarily the number of tornadoes in the outbreak that was so impressive for the Carolinas - it was the strength and lengthy paths of those tornadoes and the number of injuries and fatalities that resulted.
The first tornadoes to move into the northern and northeastern portion of South Carolina impacted parts of Lancaster, Kershaw and Chesterfield Counties. Four tornadoes, one F2 and three of which were F4, occurred in a line across the eastern Piedmont into the Sandhills of northern South Carolina. These tornadoes resulted in six deaths and over 100 injuries in the Winnsboro, Kershaw and Cash communities.
A short time later, two F4 tornadoes (winds of up to 200 miles per hour) tore long paths across Marlboro, Scotland, Robeson and Cumberland Counties, killing 12 people and injuring nearly 500 others.
One of these tornadoes affected mainly Marlboro County, with significant damage around Bennettsville. After hitting McColl, the second monster F4 tornado crossed into North Carolina and continued on the ground for 35 miles before lifting in southern Cumberland County.
The National Weather Service estimates that this tornado could have been up to two and a half miles wide at its largest, which would place it among some of the widest tornadoes on record.
When all was said and done, 57 people lost their lives (42 in North Carolina, 15 in South Carolina, none in Georgia) and 1,248 were injured (799 in North Carolina, 448 in South Carolina, one in Georgia). The damage done by these storms totaled around $1.25 billion, adjusted for inflation.
Although neither of the Carolinas (or anyone east of the Appalachian mountains, for that matter) have ever experienced an F5/EF5 tornado, we have had our fair share of F4/EF4 tornadoes.
Could we ever experience an EF4 tornado in this area? Absolutely.
Is it possible that we will ever have an EF5 tornado, especially considering that northeast South Carolina and southeast North Carolina are typically below the states' average for tornadoes? The odds say it isn't likely, but nature isn't bound by statistical probability.