The Holy City Hails Near Record Snowstorm

Jan 4, 2018

Kids play in snow in Charleston suburb
Credit Victoria Hansen / SC Public Radio

Parents packed up golf carts like snow mobiles as kids grabbed their sea worthy boogie boards and headed out in search of higher ground.  Hills are hard to come by in the Lowcountry.  But then again, so is snow.  Charleston got a rare thrill Wednesday.  More than five inches of snow swirled through palm fronds and gathered on the ground.  It's the most snow the area has seen since Hurricane Hugo and it would be enjoyed.

"Anything from a skim board to boogie boards to actual sleds will work," said Brendan Ball.  "Whatever you can find, even a sheet of plywood."  The Mount Pleasant native gathered with dozens of others in the town's old village, just blocks from the Charleston Harbor.  It's a tradition, he says, that dates back to his childhood.  He clearly remembers the six inches of snow that whipped up a white Christmas December 23, 1989 in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo.  He's not the only one.

Orange trees ice over
Credit Victoria Hansen / SC Public Radio

"This was great," said Burt Rhoades.  "The last time I can remember a significant snow like this was the Christmas of Hugo and that was fantastic because if covered up all the disaster."  The snow also came during the day, beginning just after noon and enticing many with heavy flakes that flew for hours.  It transformed a typically tropical landscape.  A lone pelican looked for cover on Shem Creek.  Some palms seemed to huddle under the snow's heavy weight.  Magnolia trees appeared to blossom with patches of white popping from branches' bows. Unpicked oranges iced over.  Prickly cactuses took cover.  Those magnificent old oaks grew more even more majestic, with glistening Spanish moss. 

Dock on Charleston Harbor
Credit Victoria Hansen / SC Public Radio

The winter storm was also historic  The National Weather Service calls it the third snowiest on record for the city, which barely remembers  5.4 inches in February 1973.  But it was close.  This round is believed to have brought 5.3 inches.

Travel has been treacherous with many roads and bridges freezing over.  Sgt. Bob Beres with the State Highway Patrol said he worked more than 100 accidents from Jasper County to Charleston within just the first few hours.

“It’s really slippery out here," said Beres.  " I don’t care what kind of vehicle you have,  nothing can combat ice other than ice skates."

For the most part, people seemed to heed the warnings.  They stayed home or grabbed their golf carts and boogie boards and made the most of a rare winter storm.