FIRST ALERT: Idalia brings heavy rain, wind and flooding to Lowcountry

The tropical storm brings the 5th highest tide on record at 9.17 ft.
Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 7:02 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2023 at 11:57 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials with the National Weather Service Charleston say Tropical Storm Idalia is weakening as it moves away from the Lowcountry.

The storm was downgraded from a Category 1 to a tropical storm around at 5 p.m.

Paired with the king tide, areas like downtown Charleston are seeing major flooding.

The National Weather Service is reporting “major coastal inundation” on Edisto Beach and Downtown Charleston. Officials say water has breached the Charleston Battery. Dunes are breached at Edisto Beach with water flowing under homes and onto roadways.

First Alert Meteorologist Stephanie Sine says the king tide is now at 9.17 feet, making it the 5th highest tide on record in Charleston.

The Lowcountry has seen periods of heavy rain and even a tornado warning for portions of Charleston and Dorchester Counties.

Radar detection of a storm capable of producing a tornado prompted the warning before 5 p.m.

Deputies in Dorchester County responded to a report of a tornado that touched down, but Dorchester County Emergency Management Director Thomas McNeal said shortly before 1 p.m. that deputies did not find any evidence of a tornado touching down.

The National Weather Service in Charleston confirmed a tornado touched down in Goose Creek Wednesday afternoon.

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The storm made landfall at around 8 a.m. Wednesday near Keaton Beach, Florida.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded the hurricane, which had reached Category 4 strength earlier in the morning back to a Category 3 at 7 a.m. At that time, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. Maximum sustained winds of 130 mph qualify for the Category 4 status.

“This change in wind speed does not diminish the threat of catastrophic storm surge and damaging winds,” the National Weather Service said in a 7 a.m. update.

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The Lowcountry, meanwhile, is bracing for the effects of Idalia, expected to have weakened to a Category 1 hurricane or a tropical storm, by the time it arrives in the area.

Coastal Colleton and Beaufort Counties are under a hurricane warning and Charleston and Berkeley Counties are under a hurricane watch. The rest of the Lowcountry is under a tropical storm warning.


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Idalia weakening over Georgia hours after Florida landfall

As of 11 p.m., the center of Idalia was located near latitude 33 North, longitude 80 West, which is in the Goose Creek area.

Idalia is moving toward the north-northeast near 21 mph.

Forecasters say the center of Idalia will move near or along the coast of South Carolina on Thursday. Idalia will move over the western Atlantic into the weekend.

Maximum sustained winds have recreated to near 60 mph with higher gusts. Idalia is expected to remain a tropical storm when it moves off the coast.

The minimum pressure based on a recent surface observation from Moody Air Force Base is 987 mb or 29.15 inches.

Lowcountry to begin feeling effects Wednesday

Depending on where you live in the Lowcountry, you may see stronger winds or higher rainfall totals. People in inland counties could see wind gusts closer to 40 mph while those along the coast could see wind gusts in excess of 60 mph, Live 5 First Alert Meteorologist Joey Sovine said.

Here is a breakdown of what to expect county by county:

Charleston County

  • Charleston County is under a hurricane watch, a tropical storm warning and a storm surge warning. Residents can expect 40 to 60-mph wind gusts and those on the beach could see gusts greater than 60 mph.
  • Rainfall totals will range from between 1 to 4 inches.

Berkeley County

  • Berkeley County is under a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning. Residents can expect 40 to 60 mph gusts, with the highest gusts near Lake Moultrie.
  • Rainfall totals will likely be between 3 and 6 inches.

Dorchester County

  • Dorchester County is under a tropical storm warning. Wind gusts of between 40 and 60 mph are possible with rainfall totals between 4 and 8 inches.

Colleton County

  • Coastal Colleton County is under a hurricane warning and a tropical storm warning. Residents in the coastal portions of the county could see wind gusts of between 60 and 75 mph, but those inland could see 40 to 60-mph gusts.
  • Rainfall totals could reach 4 to 8 inches.

Beaufort County

  • Beaufort County is under a hurricane warning and a storm surge warning. Beaufort County residents could see gusts of up to 65 to 75 mph with 2 to 5 inches of rain.

Georgetown County

  • Georgetown County is under a tropical storm warning and a storm surge warning. Wind gusts of between 40 and 60 mph are possible, along with 2 to 4 inches of rain.

Orangeburg County

  • Orangeburg County is under a tropical storm warning. While wind gusts are expected to average between 15 and 25 mph with some gusts of up to 50 mph possible, Orangeburg County could see between 5 and 10 inches of rain.

Williamsburg County

  • Williamsburg County is under a tropical storm warning. Wind gusts of up to 40 to 50 mph are possible, along with 5 to 10 inches of rain.

Gusty winds could cause damage, power outages

Strong winds could cause damage to roofing and siding materials, along with damage to porches, awnings, carports, and sheds. A few buildings could experience window, door, and garage door failures. Mobile homes could be damaged, especially if they are unanchored.

In strong wind gusts, unsecured lightweight objects become dangerous projectiles.

Several large trees can be uprooted and limbs can snap.

Some roads may be impassable because of large debris. A few bridges and access routes could be impassable.

Travel by vehicle or on foot will become increasingly difficult. Danger of death or injury from falling objects such as trees or electric wires outside.

Scattered power and communications outages are possible but would be more prevalent in areas with above-ground lines, which could persist for hours or days.

Some poorly secured small craft could break loose from their moorings.

With winds above 60 mph, dangers increase, including a threat of death or injury from falling objects or airborne projectiles outside. Even sturdy buildings could sustain considerable roof damage and some window, door, and garage door failures. Mobile homes could be severely damaged with some destroyed.

Storm surge watch also in effect

In counties with under a storm surge warning, the peak storm surge forecast calls for a surge of 2 to 4 feet above ground in surge-prone areas. This could cause areas of inundation of saltwater along immediate shorelines and in low-lying spots farther inland near rivers and creeks, with the storm surge flooding accentuated by waves.

Possible effects:

  • Damage to several buildings, mainly near the coast.
  • Sections of near-shore escape routes and secondary roads become weakened or washed out, especially in normally vulnerable low spots.
  • Moderate to major beach erosion with heavy surf breaching dunes. Strong and numerous rip currents.
  • Minor to moderate damage to marinas, docks, boardwalks, and piers. Several small craft broken away from moorings, especially in unprotected anchorages. Some navigation aids possibly displaced well off station, creating difficult navigation near inlets and waterways.

In addition to winds and storm surge, peak rainfall amounts could reach 3 to 6 inches with locally higher amounts.

Rivers and tributaries could rapidly overflow their banks in multiple locations. Small streams, creeks, canals, and ditches may become dangerous rivers. Flood control systems and barriers could become stressed.

Flood waters could enter many structures within multiple communities; some structures could become uninhabitable or be washed away. Flood waters could cover multiple escape routes. Streets and parking lots become rivers of moving water with underpasses submerged. Driving conditions could become dangerous. Many road and bridge closures could be possible.

Drinking water and sewer services could be negatively impacted.

Hazardous containers and materials could possibly be present in flood waters.

There is also the potential for tornadoes as the storm moves through.