Milder hurricane season comes to an end, South Carolina still recovering from flood

This graphic by the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., shows the paths each tropical storm took in the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. Most of the storms stayed out to sea.
This graphic by the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., shows the paths each tropical storm took in the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. Most of the storms stayed out to sea. U.S. National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C.

The hurricane season officially ended Monday with no threats brewing offshore to give forecasters a chance to doubt the 2015 season would be counted as anything but mild.

Most of the season’s 10 storms stayed out to sea and away from the eastern seaboard, but the area is still recovering from massive floods spawned by a tempest of the deep that turned away.

Hurricane Joaquin formed in the Caribbean on Sept. 27, churning into a category 4 with up to 155 mph winds that pelted the Bahamas for days before spinning northwestward. The storm never set foot on the Grand Strand, but it fueled a three-day pocket of heavy rain that dumped up to two feet of precipitation on South Carolina, swelling rivers, washing away roads and flooding homes from Columbia to the coast.

The hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

Road closures were down from a peak of 541 on Oct. 5 to 69 Wednesday, according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s recent update on flooding impacts. Twenty-six of the state’s remaining route closures were due to private dam failures that will need to be addressed before the roads are reopened.

According to the report, 221 bridge sites were impacted by the floods and 18 will require full replacement. More than 2,000 loads of debris had been removed from roads as clean-up from the storm started to wind down last week. But the total cost of recovery from a rain storm – that wasn’t a hurricane – remains unknown.

The National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., counted 10 storms, including two major hurricanes, for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season from June 1-Nov. 30. Joaquin was the biggest. Hurricane Danny – the first major hurricane of the season, formed as a tropical depression off the northeast coast of South America on Aug. 18. Danny peaked as a category 3 with maximum sustained winds of up to 115 mph before it ran out of steam in the Virgin Islands on Aug. 24, according to The Weather Channel’s weather.com.

Forecasters were expecting a diminished season.

Stephen Keebler, National Weather Service meteorologist

The two storms that made landfall in the United States were Ana that lumbered into the Grand Strand on Aug. 10 and Bill that invaded Matagorda Island, Texas on June 16, according to the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, N.C. Bill formed in the Gulf Coast as a tropical storm and fizzled into a tropical depression that headed north before it died in Oklahoma.

“Tropical Storm Ana … was very early in the season,” said Stephen Keebler, a meteorologist with the NWS in Wilmington.

“It developed quickly off the coast,” he said, but Ana didn’t bring “that big of an impact.”

Ana was the only tropical storm path to actually cross South Carolina. It brought about six inches of rain to North Myrtle Beach and Kinston, N.C., and peak wind gusts of 62 mph near Southport, N.C., Keebler said, before Ana sputtered out in Maryland on Aug. 11.

Tropical Storm Claudette formed off the North Carolina coast as a depression on July 12, according to a graphic by the NWS. Claudette became a tropical storm a day later as it moved out to sea, eventually fading into obscurity south of Newfoundland by July 15.

10 tropical storms were noted in the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Other storms of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season: Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri and Ida received little attention along the east coast as the tempests tangoed in the deep Atlantic.

“There was just a handful out there that developed and kind of faded away,” Keebler said. The storms “either didn’t develop fully or turned northward as they gained” strength.

“Forecasters were expecting a diminished season,” he said, and although they were surprised by the number of storms, their overall weaknesses and short life spans gave credence to the early prediction.

And El Nino – often blamed for wreaking havoc in weather systems – can be credited for the mild hurricane season.

The El Nino creates stronger winds and oddly enough hurricanes in their development stage, they don’t like strong winds.

Stephen Keebler, National Weather Service meteorologist

That’s “primarily why the forecast was lower than usual,” Keebler said. “The El Nino creates stronger winds and oddly enough hurricanes in their development stage, they don’t like strong winds.”

It’s during those “dog days of summer, when things get stifling hot and there’s not much wind – that’s the peak of hurricane season,” he said.

El Ninos are also usually associated with milder winters, he added.

Reach Weaver: 843-444-1722; @TSNEmily

FEMA assistance deadline for flood survivors extended to Jan. 4

Gov. Nikki Haley announced in a press release Monday that her request for a 30-day extension of the registration period for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Individual Assistance was granted.

South Carolinians affected by October's heavy rains and historic flooding now have until Jan. 4 to apply for disaster assistance with FEMA and the Small Business Administration, according to the release.

Flood survivors, who sustained losses in 24 South Carolina counties, can apply for assistance by registering online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362) . Disaster assistance applicants who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. Those who use 711 or Video Relay Service may call 800-621-FEMA (3362). The toll-free telephone numbers will operate 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

Assistance can include money for temporary rental assistance and essential home repairs for primary homes, low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help survivors recover from the effects of the disaster, according to the release.

Residents who were affected by severe storms and heavy flooding in the following 24 counties have until Jan. 4, to apply for federal disaster assistance: Bamberg, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dorchester, Fairfield, Florence, Georgetown, Greenville, Greenwood, Horry, Kershaw, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland, Spartanburg, Sumter and Williamsburg counties.