(WSAV) – What a year 2019 was! The year kicked off with record high temperatures for the first two days of the New Year. Including those days, we had 197 days with above-average highs as well as tied/broke 21 record high temperatures.
Over the year for the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry, there were 273 thunderstorm warnings issued and 33 tornado warnings issued. Out of those warnings, we had 2 confirmed tornadoes.
The first tornado happened back in early March…
SUNDAY, MARCH 3: Liberty County Tornado
As strong and severe storms started approaching the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry late in the afternoon, a tornado watch was issued until 11 pm that night. 16 tornado warnings and 24 severe thunderstorm warnings were issued following that.
Just before 7 p.m., an EF-1 tornado touched down near US 17, 3.8 miles south of Riceboro. The tornado moved east over I-95. As debris was thrown across the highway, a truck and motorcyclist were hit with debris. The tornado continued to Old Darien Road until it ended along Islands Highway.
The National Weather Service’s Survey Team believes the area between I-95 and Darien Road had the most damage. An estimated 100+ trees were snapped and uprooted. A camper trailer was also flipped and rolled.
This was the same storm that killed 23 people in Alabama and Georgia during the tornado outbreak with 70 confirmed tornadoes.
The deadly Lee County, Alabama tornado had a max wind of 170 mph, was just about a mile wide, and was on the ground for 26.73 miles.
FRIDAY, APRIL 19: Severe Thunderstorm Outbreak
A line of strong storms passed through late in the morning into the mid-afternoon. While no tornadoes formed from this line, a squall line developed ahead of a cold front.
This squall line moved very quickly and started to bow. When it started to bow, the storm produced damaging winds. Trees were knocked down and uprooted. Debris covered lanes on I-95. Power-lines were knocked down as well.
Fourteen tornado warnings and 31 severe thunderstorm warnings were issued during this event.
Here are the highest wind gust reports from April 19.
SATURDAY, MAY 4: Wilmington Island Tornado
Just like a normal spring afternoon, we were expecting isolated showers and storms. Then one storm continued to get stronger and stronger.
At 4:51 pm, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Wilmington, Whitemarsh, and Tybee Islands. Two minutes later at 4:53 p.m., an EF-1 tornado touched down west of the Savannah Yacht Club. The tornado hit the Savannah Yacht Club as it traveled east crossing over Turners Rock.
It continued to move east onto Wilmington Island, south of Johnny Mercer Boulevard. The weakening tornado moved over Molly McGuire’s Restaurant before it ended in the parking lot of the Goodwill.
“I was at Basil’s on Wilmington Island when the warning was issued. The rotation passed right over us. Right as it passed, the walls felt like they were being pulling from the outside. The winds were beyond crazy. Wind pulled down power lines.”-WSAV Meteorologist Alysa Carsley
At the same time the tornado moved over the Savannah Yacht Club, a boat was being lifted out of the water by a crane. The boat was thrown and flipped over from the crane onto a dock. The crane was pushed into a building, causing roof damage. The area between Bradley Creek and Turners Rock Road sustained the most damage. Over two dozen large trees were snapped or uprooted.
On Wilmington Island, the tornado damaged a sign of the Autoplex, tossed around outdoor furniture from Basil’s Restaurant, and damaged the roof and glass door of the Goodwill.
SATURDAY, MAY 25 – THURSDAY, MAY 30: Stretch of Extreme Heat
Strong high pressure remained locked over the Southeast over the last week of May. Because high pressure causes the air to sink instead of rise, afternoon showers and thunderstorms could not form and help cool us off. This also prevented the cooling influence of the Atlantic Ocean. This set up allowed us to encounter the hottest temperatures ever recorded in May.
This extreme stretch of heat resulted in both Georgia and South Carolina having the 2nd warmest May on record.
The Savannah International Airport had 4 days in a row of 100+ degree and two days in a row of 99 degrees. On May 26, Savannah hit a high of 102 degrees…that was our hottest day we had in 2019.
Because there weren’t any rain showers during this time, our drought condition worsened. According to the National Weather Service in Charleston, farmers in Allendale and Hampton Counties reported that their dry corn fields were beyond recovery and struggling to grow crops.
MONDAY, JUNE 10 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12: Heavy Rain
The extreme heat from May left the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry in a severe drought. Once that high pressure broke down, the average everyday thunderstorm and rain showers were eventually able to move back in.
Over the weekend of June 8, a low-pressure center slowly moved out of the central Southeast while dragging tropical moisture out of the Gulf of Mexico with it. This allowed for multiple days of heavy rain.
We received ALMOST 10″ OF RAIN in 9 days! Our normal rain total for the ENTIRE month of June is 5.95″. The most rain we received was on June 11 with 4.53″. That was our highest daily rainfall total for 2019.
All in one week…we went from having severe drought conditions to now having an above-normal rainfall total.
SEPTEMBER 4-5: Hurricane Dorian
Dorian was a devastating hurricane. At the storm’s strongest point, it was a Category 5 with max winds speeds of 185 mph.
At it’s closest approach, Dorian was about 90 miles away from Savannah. The strongest winds remained out over the Atlantic Ocean but our strongest wind gusts reports had gusts up to strong tropical storm strength.
With Dorian tracking so close, one of our greatest concerns was the potential for storm surge. Luckily for us, plenty of offshore (north) wind right at high tide helped keep storm surge lower than expected. We reached just over minor flooding levels during the worst of Dorian. During both Matthew and Irma, we saw over 12 ft of storm tide (storm surge & astronomical tide).
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22 – TUESDAY, DECEMBER, 24: Coastal Rain Storm
By late in the week of December 15, an area of low pressure developed in the northern Gulf of Mexico with a cold front trailing with it. This storm system was able to work with extra moisture from the Gulf. This aided in the storm bringing rain for multiple days.
By Sunday morning, the low pressure was moving across northern Florida. Rain showers continued through early Christmas Eve due to the slow-moving cold front.
Savannah had a record rainfall event on December 22 with 2.11″.
By Christmas eve, we were 3.66″ above average on our normal rainfall totals.
2019 COASTAL FLOODING
In 2019, Fort Pulaski had a record number of coastal flooding events. The tide gage reached or exceeded 9.2 ft MLLW (minor flooding level) 42 times! The previous record was 27 in 2015 and 2016.