HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The Carolinas are no stranger to severe weather, with the Grand Strand and the Pee Dee being no exception.
But just how great of an impact has severe weather had? In honor of Severe Weather and Flood Safety Week in South Carolina, the WMBF First Alert Weather team looked into some of the biggest threats the area has seen.
First, when looking at the number of tornadoes across the area since 1980, a few things stick out. One, tornadoes can and do happen in every month of the year, but there are some periods of spikes.
The typical springtime severe weather season is marked with a dramatic increase in the number of tornadoes that occur in March, with the likelihood of tornadoes peaking in May.
However, another peak in tornado activity pops up in August and September. Those are most typically associated with tropical storms and hurricanes, much like the one that touched down in North Myrtle Beach ahead of Hurricane Matthew.
As far as the time of day, residents are most likely to see severe storms and tornadoes in the late afternoon and evening. That is clearly supported in the data of all tornadoes in the area since 1980. They have occurred in every hour of the day and night, but the greatest chance falls in the period from 2 to 8 p.m.
The data gets more interesting when the number of tornadoes by county is broken down.
Since 1980, Robeson County takes the lead with 26 tornadoes, far higher than any other county.
The reason for that is the area lies on the southern edge of what is known as Carolina's "tornado alley" that extends from near the Virginia border in North Carolina southward to near the border of North Carolina and South Carolina, around Robeson County.
The second-highest tornado count goes to Horry County.
Those higher numbers are a result of tornadoes from tropical storms and hurricanes, and a higher population density to see and report them.
Marlboro County doesn't have a very high tornado count, but holds the distinction of seeing the two strongest tornadoes in the state of South Carolina.
A tornado outbreak on March 28, 1984 produced two EF-4 tornadoes, with winds of near 170 mph. They resulted in nine deaths and 200 injuries.
Another big threat to the area is hail.
Since 1980, hail damages have totaled $32 million across the area. Of that amount, $30 million of it came from one single hail storm in Florence on May 25, 2000.
Hail up to the size of baseballs and softballs caused damage to 2,000 homes and 1,000 cars, along with acres of crops across Florence County.
Then there is wind damage, which is by far the most common threat from severe thunderstorms across the region.
Severe thunderstorm winds have resulted in $17 million in damage since 1980.
Straight-line winds from severe thunderstorms can commonly reach speeds of 50 to 80 mph and sometimes even as high as 100 mph. The damage can often be mistaken for that of a tornado.