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Record rainfall and major flooding hit Carolinas as storm moves up East Coast

Record rainfall and major flooding hit Carolinas as storm moves up East Coast

Heavy rains and flooding struck the Carolinas on December 17, 2023, as a powerful storm system moved up the East Coast, causing record rainfall in Charleston and significant flooding along the South Carolina coast.

The Carolinas experienced intense rainfall and flooding on Sunday, December 17, 2023, due to a powerful storm system moving up the East Coast. Charleston, South Carolina, witnessed record rainfall and historic flooding, exacerbated by high tide, creating critical flooding issues throughout the coastal areas.

The storm, which brought tropical-storm-like conditions to Florida on Saturday, December 16, caused flash flood emergencies along the South Carolina coast on Sunday. The system intensified as it moved northeastward, posing threats of flooding, high winds, and severe weather that could disrupt travel plans in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and Southeast.

In Georgetown, South Carolina, authorities rescued numerous motorists stranded by floodwaters. The area, situated between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, received over 229 mm (9 inches) of rain since late Saturday. Georgetown County spokesperson Jackie Broach remarked on the unexpected flooding in usually non-flood-prone areas.

Charleston International Airport recorded more than 76 mm (3 inches) of rain in 24 hours, nearly five times the previous record set in 1975. The National Weather Service office in Charleston reported a peak tide of 3 m (9.86 feet) in the Charleston Harbor around noon, the highest tide on record not associated with a tropical cyclone. This tide level is topped only by an unnamed hurricane in 1940, Hurricane “Hugo” in 1989, and Hurricane “Irma” in 2017.

Flash Flood Emergencies were declared for Georgetown and Pawleys Island, South Carolina, due to life-threatening conditions. In Pawleys Island, strong winds and heavy rain inundated the causeway, causing significant disruptions.

Power outages were widespread, with over 31 000 in South Carolina, 14 000 in North Carolina, and 11 000 in Florida. The storm dumped up to 127 mm (5 inches) of rain in Florida, leading to the cancellation of holiday events and parades.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul warned of potential flooding, with New York City and Long Island under high wind warnings and flood watches, while New York City Mayor Eric Adams urged residents to prepare for rain and potential commute delays on Monday morning.

NWS forecaster Ziegenfelder stated that the storm will produce heavy rain over parts of the northern Mid-Atlantic Coast northward to New England through Tuesday morning, with localized areas of flash flooding being the primary concern.

noaa goes east 1950 utc on december 17 2023
Image credit: NOAA/GOES-East, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers. Acquired at 19:50 UTC on December 17, 2023
noaa goes east 0850 utc on december 18 2023
Image credit: NOAA/GOES-East, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers. Acquired at 08:50 UTC on December 18, 2023

In the wake of the storm, lake-effect snow is expected downwind of the Great Lakes and upslope snow over parts of the Northern/Central Appalachians from Monday into Wednesday. The heaviest snow is predicted over parts of the Central Appalachians and southeast of Lake Michigan.

Additionally, a front moving onshore over the West Coast on Monday will bring rain to the Pacific Northwest and California, with heavy snow expected over the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


1 Charleston sees record rain as flash flooding wreaks havoc on the South Carolina coast – FOX Weather – December 17, 2023

2 Heavy rains drench Florida and the Carolinas as storm system heads up East Coast – AP – December 17, 2023

3 Short Range Forecast Discussion – NWS Weather Prediction Center College Park MD – 237 AM EST Mon Dec 18 2023


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