Tropical cyclones, better known as “hurricanes,” have ostensibly caused catastrophic damage to the Lowcountry for centuries, although the first recorded storm was not until 1854. Hurricanes typically form between June 1 and November 30, when heavy winds reaching 74 miles per hour pass over warm surface waters in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans. In August 1893, the Great Sea Islands Hurricane made landfall; its storm surge alone killed around 2,000 Charlestonians. Less than 100 years later, Category 4 Hurricane Hugo produced the highest storm tide ever recorded on the East Coast: 10 to 12 feet above mean sea level in Charleston Harbor. In this photograph, taken during either 1952’s Category 2 Hurricane Able or 1959’s Category 1 Hurricane Cindy, a lone soul stands in defiance of Mother Nature, while we can only assume that the inhabitants of East Battery are taking cover inside. To learn how to prepare for the next big tropical storm, visit www.nhc.noaa.gov.
Photograph by Ronald Allen Reilly, courtesy of The Charleston Museum