Hurricane Season 2024: Back 2 Basics

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – It’s expected to be an unprecedented hurricane season with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issuing its highest-ever pre-season forecast, calling for somewhere between 17 and 25 named storms, eight to 13 hurricanes and four to seven major hurricanes.

Charleston has seen impacts from tropical storms and hurricanes in recent years – Irma, Matthew, Dorian, Idalia, Ian – but it has been decades since the Lowcountry last saw a major hurricane, and in that time, we’ve seen a population boom and sprawling development.

From our beautiful beaches to our rich history, people are drawn to our area. Many may not be familiar with the risk that our beautiful coastline brings.

Storm Team 2 will take you back to the basics with everything you need to know to be prepared for what experts say will be a supercharged hurricane season.

Supercharged, Daunting, Extremely Active, Out of Bounds Anomaly

These are all terms being thrown around for Hurricane Season 2024. It’s no doubt making many nervous and a bit uneasy, but it’s part of living here along the coast, where we have no barriers to block us from possible storms born in warm waters.

“Everybody here along the South Carolina coast needs to be ready regardless of what any seasonal forecast says. You’ve got all of the hazards in play here from storm surge, rainfall flooding, tornadoes, surf, and rip currents. The whole bang including the wind,” said Dr. Michael Brennan, Director of the National Hurricane Center.

Dr. Brennan would know. As Director of the National Hurricane Center, he is responsible for leading a team of experienced tropical meteorologists who forecast storms which can be very unpredictable, and fickle. This job can be especially difficult when dealing with areas that haven’t seen any major activity in quite a while. Complacency may creep in, along with population explosion along the coast – the lure of water is great. We are a perfect example of this. It’s been more than three decades since Hurricane Hugo.

“More than a generation without a major hurricane landfall here. So you have people that have grown up here their whole lives they may not have experienced anything like that, but you also have people moving in here from areas that are not hurricane-prone at all, and they may not understand what the risks and hazards are,” said Dr. Brennan.

We all have to remember it doesn’t take a major hurricane to cause major impacts. We know all too well it doesn’t even take a hurricane. A slow-moving tropical depression or tropical storm just off of our coast can create major problems, especially when it comes to rain and storm surge. One of the hardest parts of the job is to relay the season forecast message with the right tone and expertise.

“It’s a fine line between getting people aware of the season, but not overhyping it to the point where people just throw up their hands and say, well, it’s going to be such a busy year, why do I even need to prepare. So, we have to keep people calm. We’ve had busy hurricane seasons before and we’re going to have busy hurricane seasons again,” Dr. Bennan said.

This is where Dr. Brennan says it’s important to stay calm and prepare. We know we can’t stop these storms, but forecasting them is becoming more precise because of added updated technology, and our first line of defense, the Hurricane Hunters. The importance of these planes, and the men and women who fly them into storms, can’t be ignored.

“So they make these forecasts 10-20% better for the track and intensity of the storm. That can be the difference between making a decision to evacuate a major metropolitan area or not. So, we try to get these aircraft into the storm as early as possible and as often as possible,” he said.

We are hoping a decision like that will not happen for us this year, but if it does, being ready just in case will help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety which will no doubt be a part of the equation.

Know where to go if it’s time to leave

Charleston has become a popular tourist destination with more and more people moving to the area from different parts of the country. Most have never experienced a hurricane or know what to do when one threatens. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) has drawn new hurricane evacuation zones for the 2024 storm season.

“South Carolina is changing every day. New people are moving in, our communities are growing, and we have to take into account these changes, specifically with our hurricane evacuation zones,” said Steven Batson, chief of staff for SCEMD. “When it’s time to evacuate from a dangerous hurricane that has a life-threatening storm surge, we have to ask South Carolinians to move out of harm’s way when those waters will come on shore.”

Knowing the vulnerabilities of where you live ahead of time is key.

“Folks may be comfortable knowing their zone from previous storm seasons. But now changes have occurred. We need everyone to take time if you are in a coastal community to know your zone,” said Batson.

The best time to prepare is now before it’s too late. Maps with the newly drawn zone can be found on The zones are listed from ‘A’ to ‘F’ and are categorized by geographic location based on impact.

“With recent data and modeling technique advancements that have taken place, they have informed our division and local authorities about how and where we need to evacuate,” said Batson.

When a hurricane threatens, evacuation routes are predetermined. State and local officials will announce evacuations by these designated zones. You and your family would be asked to leave to protect you from life-threatening winds, surge, and flooding.

“It is specifically the water we will be asking folks to evacuate for,” Batson added.

When an evacuation is ordered, make sure your hurricane supply kit is ready. Some items to include: a NOAA weather radio, important documents, batteries, nonperishable food items, water, cash, and important medications, don’t forget to take care of your pets and ensure they have supplies.

The risk of inland flooding and extreme rainfall

Extreme rainfall associated with hurricanes often poses a threat well away from where the eye makes landfall and can persist for days as a storm moves inland.

“Over the last decade, extreme rainfall and flooding have been the deadliest hazards of these storms. And we’ve seen it with these extreme rainfall rates as the storms could be very far away and you still have extreme rainfall with this moist atmosphere,” said David Novak, director of the Weather Prediction Center.

Novak is referring to storms like Joaquin, Matthew, Florence – all names associated with tremendous amounts of rain in the Carolinas. With rain amounts being measured in feet, not inches in some cases, these storms produced significant damage and even fatalities well away from their centers.

Joaquin is the best example of this, passing hundreds of miles offshore of the Carolinas but its moisture was pulled right into the Lowcountry thanks to a different non-tropical storm to our west.

“What we do know – the atmosphere is getting more moist, and any time that happens, you’re going to have more and more rain. And in fact, what we’re seeing is the heaviest rain is getting heavier. So, I like to warn folks, these heavy rainfall events are not going to stop,” said Novak.

Data from Charleston International Airport gathered by Climate Central shows this trend over the last couple of decades. Higher rainfall rates increase the likelihood of extreme rainfall events and inland flooding from tropical cyclones.

“I am confident we are going to meet the challenge of predicting these extreme rainfall events, and you and your family need to be prepared for these kinds of events as they become more frequent,” said Novak.

With rapidly evolving technology, we are able to give longer lead times and more confidently highlight areas of greatest concern. This, combined with increasing awareness of the threat from extreme tropical rainfall events, property and lives will be more protected.

As impacts from storms are felt inland, some of the greatest areas of concern lie within the first few miles of the coastline. These also tend to be some of the most highly populated areas. It’s easy to see why. But keep in mind that life on the water doesn’t come without risks.

The dangers of storm surge

Living in the Lowcountry, we are blessed with incredible beaches and waterways. Some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country can be found here, and it is easy to get fully immersed in the ocean.

Surfing is a great example of this, an oftentimes peaceful and graceful art. But for those who call the Lowcountry home, they know that while the ocean can provide, it can also take away. And unfortunately, Charleston is particularly at risk.

“When it comes to Charleston, they are probably one of the more vulnerable areas.”

Cody Fritz, a storm surge specialist at the National Hurricane Center, explains that there is a reason why our beautiful coastline is especially susceptible to storm surge.

“It’s very shallow within the region near the shore. And that lends itself to being very vulnerable to storm surge overall,” he said. “You guys have a very low-lying coastline, and that also lends for that water to extend far inland as a result of winds pushing that water on shore.” This is why it is critical to monitor forecasts during hurricane season. But what exactly is storm surge?

“Storm surge is that abnormal rise in the overall water as a result of hurricane force winds or tropical storm force winds pushing water over ground that would otherwise be dry Fritz explained.

Last year, the Lowcountry had to deal with tropical storm Idalia in August and a Nor’easter in December. The December storm produced the fourth-highest crest and Idalia produced the sixth-highest crest downtown on record. This just goes to show how exposed the Lowcountry truly is.

Now imagine if a major hurricane ever made landfall farther south of downtown Charleston. In this hypothetical situation, water would be forced directly into Charleston Harbor due to significant onshore winds. A Climate Central video shows us what that could look like… the worst-case scenario. Although statistically unlikely, you can never rule it out, illustrating the importance of having a plan and monitoring Storm Team 2 forecasts.

Even if a storm stays well offshore of the South Carolina coast, it can still be a threat. Large waves, dangerous rip currents, an increase in hazardous marine life, and beach erosion can all be prevalent along our beaches. In fact, about 100 people die each year in rip currents. So it’s always a good idea to review the facts.

All signs point towards the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season being a hyperactive one. With sea surface temperatures at record warmth in some areas of the Atlantic, along with conducive atmospheric conditions, we’re expecting an increased number of storms, some of which could potentially become a threat.

That’s why News 2 and Storm Team 2 are ramping up preparations to ensure you, your family, and your friends are ready in case the Lowcountry is threatened this season. We are committed to keeping our community safe and informed throughout the season ahead.

Our team tracks every development in the Atlantic to guarantee you, our community, are equipped with the latest information needed.

You can also find helpful resources and preparedness tips by using the Storm Team 2 Hurricane Read Guide, which includes evacuation information, a hurricane preparedness checklist, and important phone numbers to keep on hand. Be sure to bookmark that page for use throughout the season.

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Author: Rob Fowler