South Carolina hurricanes changed history
If you live in South Carolina, the odds of a catastrophic hurricane wreaking havoc on your house are surprisingly low, according to recent research. One analysis done at the request of The Post and Courier found that a specific point in Charleston might not see a Category 3 or greater hurricane for more than 300 years.
But while the odds are low for a particular location, the likelihood that a hurricane will affect some place on South Carolina's 187-mile coast is much greater. Historians and meteorologists know that a hurricane-strength storm will come within 50 miles every five years on average.
And on some occasions, these storms have changed history, said Lawrence Rowland, professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort.
“All American history begins not far from here,” he said, standing on a bluff in downtown Beaufort and pointing across the harbor toward Parris Island.
It was there that French Hugenots built a settlement in 1562, stoking competition with the Spanish for what was known as Florida. In 1565, Jean Ribault sailed toward the fort near St. Augustine to attack the Spanish, but ran into the teeth of a hurricane.
His fleet was destroyed; the Spanish slaughtered the survivors who made it to shore.
Thanks to the storm, France's aspirations to control the Atlantic Coast began to evaporate, he said.
Much later, the Sea Islands hurricane of 1893 hammered Beaufort and killed as many as 2,000 people. Rowland said that storm helped end important Lowcountry industries, such as phosphate mining and rice cultivation.
Visit www.postandcourier.com/storm-of-money for a video of Rowland and an interactive map about South Carolina's storms.