Lowcountry Storm History
With records dating back earlier than 1851, Charleston and the lowcountry area has experienced more than 39 tropical cyclones on average every 3 years. Charleston’s location is one of the biggest factors for these patterns. South Carolina tends to experience a lot of tropical storms due to the formation of cyclones in the Gulf of Mexico that shift to the Cape Verde Islands. Occasionally some will move westward enough to threaten the US as they gather strength over the warm shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea. On average, 39.13% of the tropical storms that reach the Charleston area are hurricanes moving around 96mph. In 1989, Charleston was hit by a hurricane that remains the most devastating in the state, and at the time was the strongest storm to strike the US in the 20 years.
Hugo began as a tropical depression on the coast of the Cape Verde Islands on September 9, 1989, transforming into a tropical storm two days later, and becoming a category 5 on September 15. Before Hugo made landfall in the US, it passed over the Caribbean Islands, destroying 100% of Guadeloupe’s banana crops, 90% of St. Croix’s buildings, and 77% of Puerto Rico’s tree species. Hugo made landfall in the US as a category 4 hurricane on September 22 just north of Charleston near Sullivan’s Island. Storm surges of 20 feet resulted from the great dome of water that traveled within the swirling core of the 40 mile-wide hurricane. Torrential rains, severe flooding and damaging winds of 135mph leveled beach front properties and washed IOP boats harbored at the marina ashore. Hugo also destroyed over 1 billion board-feet of lumber in the Francis Marion National Forest, which equaled 70% of all lumber quality trees and enough timber to build 660,000 homes.
24 hours after the hurricane made landfall in the lowcountry, Hugo moved out of the US into southeastern Canada as an extratropical storm, finally dissipating on September 25, 1989. Hugo left behind devastating results – an estimated 50 fatalities and a record $10 billion in damages. The lowcountry sustained an estimated 227,800 homes experienced power outages in addition to the calamitous amounts of property damage.
Although other hurricanes have surpassed Hugo in fiscal damages, Hugo remains the most desolating in the state, and its name has been retired. After the hurricane passed and help came to the Charleston area, FEMA was criticized for its slow response to the situation and procedures were reformed over the years. So, despite services provided in national declared emergencies and better technology that issue forecasts weeks in advance, you need to be prepared for anything.
Hurricane Home Safety
That’s what we are here for! Charleston Home + Design can help you protect your home and your wallet from storms with the insights and resources of our industry. Whether it’s the basics or you’re building on your essentials, our clients featuring local companies can help you be prepared to weather the storms to come.
Safety – Planned Preparedness
Even before there are signs of a storm, you should take steps to prepare your home. A first step is to invest in hammers and ladders immediately, which will come in handy for the minimal preparation before a hurricane. In case of a hurricane threat, cover your windows with pre-cut plywood and fasten them with anchor screws – these can be found at Southern Lumber & Millwork or Buck Lumber & Building Supply. Next, you should invest in a permanent standby generator that will automatically begin operating in case the power goes out. This is incredibly important especially if a medical emergency arises, so check out Edgewater Energy and Lowcountry Generators if you don’t already have one. Another recommended step would be to install a lightning rod from Applied Building Sciences, which will protect you from electrical surges that can destroy electronics and potentially electrocute family members.
Flooding, Foundation & Insurance
As all areas of Charleston are in or close to a flood zone, flood protection is a must. Your first step if you don’t already have it, is to get flood and homeowners insurance from Allstate or McKay Insurance who will understand your needs as a coastal homeowner. Once you have gotten insurance be sure to store all the information in a safe place where you will be able to find it after a storm. Insurance is the best investment because it’s not a matter of if, but when.
In terms of your home structure, be sure your crawlspace is sealed airtight, BUT it must be able to release at 10lbs of water pressure to protect the foundation of your home – Crawlspace Solutions can help you secure your crawlspace with this. Smart Vent products actually has vents with 3 inch clearances that allows floodwater to flow freely through the space in the event of major flooding, preventing pressure and debris buildup from removing your home from its foundation. And the cherry on top? These smart vents often come with insurance premium deductions!
Window & Door Protection
Windows and doors are the biggest points of entry for wind and debris during a storm, and thus need to be reinforced to prevent damage. All About Garage Doors installs hurricane-strut reinforced garage doors to defend the largest opening into your home. Invest in impact-resistant windows from Muhler that will add one more layer of security from straight-line winds. On the exterior, get storm rated shutters from Lowcountry Hurricane Protection and Shutters to prevent flying debris from entering your home. Having an airtight sealed home is important to hinder winds from entering and creating pressure to detach the roof from your home.
From foundation to roof, you need to be sure the structural integrity of your house is secure. Atlantic Roofing Distributors recommends that your roof be metal rather than a shingle roof as one continuous system is less likely to be blown off by strong winds. Additionally, according to Harper Construction, hip roofs slope downward and cause the house to experience 40% less pressure than a gable roof.
Inside of your roof also requires investment – spray foam insulation not only improves your roof’s strength fourfold, but it reduces wind and rain damage by sealing out moisture AND it increases the energy-efficiency of your home. Financially it is cheaper to refit an existing roof than to replace one after the storm, so Energy One America or Ecofoam Insulation and Coatings can help with the installation. One last step would be to trim back the treelines around your roof to prevent storm damage.
When a storm hits, it can be overwhelming to deal with the cleanup and aftermath. First, be sure to call local power companies like Berkeley Electric Cooperative or SCE&G to report any power outages. Next, if any trees have fallen, call Schneider Tree Care and they will help you remove debris. Finally, if you are in need of loans for necessary home improvements, reach out to your bank or Heritage Trust for home equity loans.
Created by Jade Taylor