Area Weather Summary

January - New Years' Day started off rather cold as temperatures fell to 25 degrees at both the Charleston and Savannah Airports. Readings topped out in the middle 70s only two days later!! A look at the January data shows that it was mild, with the average monthly temperature four to five degrees above normal. Temperatures reached freezing levels on only three days. A severe weather report came from Tattnall County on the 22nd, when thunderstorm winds knocked down large tree limbs. Rainfall amounts were much above normal due to the persistent storm track steering the systems over the Southeastern US. Charleston came within an inch of the rainfall record for the month. Savannah recorded its fifth wettest January on record. Flooding was the major weather story this month as all rivers were at or above flood stage for most of the period. On the Edisto River, many families had to evacuate their homes. Record 24 hour rainfall amounts were set at Charleston (3.27 inches...old record...1.34 inches) and Savannah (2.59 inches...old record...1.73 inches) on the 23rd. The entire region received from three to seven inches on this day, and flooding caused many roads to become impassible, especially in Southeast Georgia. Another rainfall record was exceeded at Charleston on the 27th.

February - A record rainfall amount was set for the month at the Charleston Airport. The total was 10.17 inches which broke the old record of 6.83 inches in 1983. Records were also set for 24 hour rainfall amounts on the 16th (3.02 inches...old record...0.92 inches), the 17th (2.93 inches..old record...1.79 inches), and on the 22nd (1.21 inches....old record..0.92 inches). Amounts at Savannah were less for the month, but a 24 hour record was set on the 22nd (1.45 inches....old record 0.92 inches). Average temperatures were above normal for the month by two to three degrees. Area rivers remained at or well above flood stage for the month as strong El Nino conditions prevailed. Significant river flooding continued along the Edisto River, especially near Givhans Ferry.

March - The monthly statistics show that March was two to three degrees cooler than normal, and it was much drier than January or February. A closer look at the weather for the month shows that plenty of rain fell on the already saturated soil. Two to three inches of rain fell from the 5th to the 9th, and from the 17th to the 19th. River flooding was a significant problem for people living along the Edisto and Altamaha rivers. Many families were forced to evacuate around the middle of the month. The week separating these two rainy periods featured an arctic airmass reaching deep into Florida, and the coldest temperatures were recorded this week. Crops were damaged or killed in many states, including Georgia and South Carolina, as low temperatures fell to record levels. The high temperatures recorded on the 12th were record low maximums as Savannah only reached 45 and Charleston got to 44. Temperatures were some 20 degrees below normal for a few days. Record low temperatures were reached on the 13th, as Savannah dropped to 24 degrees (old record...26 set in 1960) and Charleston reached 22 (old record...26 set in 1960). It was the coldest day of the 1997-98 winter. Sub-freezing conditions were experienced even on the barrier islands. Inland sections had

several days of temperatures in the middle and upper 20s. It was hard to believe that Spring was only one week away! Warm weather ended the month as temperatures reached the lower 80s over the inland sections of the coastal counties. A pattern change allowed the Southeast US to dry out during the latter portion of the month, and a few rivers fell slightly below flood stage for the first time in a couple of months.

April -Tornadoes in SE Georgia and S Coastal S.C. April 9, 1998. The first tornado touchdown occurred about 3 miles northeast of Pembroke and then crossed I-16 at the Olive Branch Road overpass (about 2 mi.west of exit 29) then continued east northeast. The tornado apparently weakened slightly and moved into a less populated area as it entered Effingham County. Once the tornado moved east of GA 17, it lifted. There were no additional reports of damage from the parent cell until it crossed into South Carolina just west of Hardeeville.

In Bryan County, significant damage occurred in the Olive Branch Road area and also just north of Blitchton, where a 40-year-old female was killed. There were 16 other people injured along the path. Seventy-four (74) homes and other buildings were damaged, with fourteen of those destroyed (6 mobile homes, two frame houses, two brick homes, and four other buildings). Effingham County had approximately 30 homes damaged along GA 17 about 5 miles south of Guyton. Six (6) of these were mobile homes that were destroyed. Numerous trees were uprooted or snapped off 10 to 15 ft above the ground in both counties. This tornado has been classified F-3 on the Fujita scale because of extensive damage in at least two areas. Path width at its widest point was up to 1/4 mile wide. The damage track was nearly continuous from the first touchdown point across I-16, across U.S. 80 to a point just east of GA 17, approximately 1-2 miles northeast of Eden. Track length was approximately 16 miles. The same parent cell later produced an F-1 tornado just W of Hardeeville, SC with numerous trees down and shingles taken off the roof of a house and several other buildings damaged. The track was near 1 mile long and 150 yards wide. This same parent cell later produced golf ball size hail and possibly an F-0 tornado near Beaufort, SC.

The second tornado began near or just WSW of Rye Patch (Long Co.), which is roughly due north of Ludowici and 1 to 2 miles west of the Liberty Co. line. About a dozen mobile homes were destroyed in Rye Patch where a 13-year-old girl and a 30-year-old woman were killed. The tornado traveled ENE across Ft. Stewart Army Reservation where it heavily damaged several barracks and administrative buildings, killing one person (51 year old male) and injuring two. The tornado continued across south and eastern Liberty County and into eastern Bryan County. In Liberty County, there were 29 homes damaged with two mobile homes destroyed. An additional 62 buildings were damaged or destroyed on Fort Stewart. The emergency manager has estimated one million dollars worth of damage at the present time. This tornado has been rated an F-2 based on current information and damage survey. The estimated track length was 28 miles (with intermittent breaks) and the maximum width was 1/4 mile.

 

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