Exploring the unique weather patterns and legendary forecasts of the Lowcountry

Whispers in the wind

Story by Tasha Esselstein

Discover the extraordinary world of Lowcountry weather, where whispers in the wind reveal the region’s distinct atmospheric phenomena. Nestled along the coast, our captivating area boasts weather patterns like no other, shaped by the dynamic interplay of land and sea. Local meteorologist Andrew Gorton, a seasoned expert, can help unravel the complexity behind forecasting the daily weather in the Lowcountry. 

Andrew Gorton found his calling reporting on the Lowcountry’s weather for WTOC’s News at Daybreak. He was awarded Connect Savannah’s 2021 “Best Local TV Meteorologist.”

Beyond the forecast 

From the afternoon phenomenon known as sea breezes, where temperature differentials between the ocean and the land create a unique forecast challenge, to coastal features like shifting water depths and the ebb and flow of tides and waves, Gorton appreciates the intricacies of Lowcountry weather. And as if that weren’t enough, the annual arrival of hurricanes starting in June adds an extra layer of drama to his forecasts.

Tools of the trade 

Behind the scenes Gorton utilizes various tools and data sources to craft accurate forecasts. Satellite data provides insights into approaching weather patterns, while computer models assist in making informed decisions. Ground observations from cameras strategically positioned throughout the Lowcountry offer real-time temperature, dew point, wind direction and visibility data. Combining these resources with expertise and a deep understanding of weather patterns, meteorologists strive to provide the most precise forecasts possible.

Forecasting the future 

For Gorton, the true reward lies in witnessing a forecast come to fruition, regardless of its accuracy. Whether spot-on or not, each forecast is a valuable learning opportunity, enabling him to refine his skills and improve future predictions. Ultimately, Gorton’s main objective as a meteorologist is to effectively communicate vital weather information to the public, empowering them to stay safe and plan their weeks accordingly. He is dedicated to helping people grasp the Lowcountry’s unique weather patterns and idiosyncrasies.

dramatic dawn at the sea. gray clouds on the sky with red sun above the horizon. summer holidays rainy weather forecast

Weather lore 

In an era before online and televised forecasts, people relied on weather lores to anticipate the weather. While some of these traditional sayings have proven inaccurate, many have stood the test of time.

“Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”

Why it’s true: This centuries-old weather lore holds true due to the typical west-to-east movement of weather systems. When a high-pressure system, associated with fair weather, approaches from the west, it gathers particles and moisture from the atmosphere, scattering blue light and creating a red sky at night. Conversely a red sky during sunrise indicates that the high-pressure system has already moved eastward, signaling the arrival of a low-pressure system and the likelihood of inclement weather. This enduring wisdom can be traced back to the Shakespearean poem, Venus and Adonis.


“When there is a halo around the sun or moon, expect rain quite soon.”

Why it’s true: The appearance of a halo around the sun or moon is caused by the refraction of light passing through ice crystals in high cirrus clouds. These clouds often indicate the formation of a warm front, which is typically associated with abundant rainfall.

Perched owls, moon bow, pine thicket

“When clouds appear like rocks and towers, the earth is refreshed with frequent showers.”

Why it’s true: Clouds that exhibit towering and vertical formations indicate unsettled air, suggesting the formation of heavy storms. Cumulonimbus clouds, resembling towering structures, are known for their impressive height and are often associated with rainfall. On the other hand, nimbostratus clouds, with their rock-like shapes, tend to bring continuous rain.


Nature’s fury and tranquility 

The Lowcountry experiences unique weather conditions due to its coastal location and geographical features. Here are some types of weather commonly observed here: 

Hot and humid summers

Summers in the Lowcountry can be hot and humid, with high temperatures often reaching into the 90s. The humidity levels can be quite high, making it feel even hotter. Thunderstorms are common during this season, bringing heavy rainfall, frequent lightning and gusty winds.

Mild winters

Winters in the Lowcountry are generally mild compared to more northern regions. Daytime temperatures usually range from the 50s to the 60s. While cold snaps can occur, freezing temperatures are infrequent.

Tropical storms and hurricanes

The Lowcountry is prone to tropical storms and hurricanes, particularly during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June to November. These weather systems can bring heavy rain, strong winds, storm surge and potential coastal flooding.

Warm springs

Spring in the Lowcountry is a transition period with mild temperatures. It is characterized by blossoming flowers and trees and occasional showers or thunderstorms. Temperatures gradually increase during this season.


The Lowcountry can experience fog, particularly in the early morning or late evening hours. Fog often occurs due to the interaction of warm, moist air with cooler water temperatures or land surfaces.

Idyllic falls

Fall in the Lowcountry is pleasant, with mild temperatures and lower humidity levels. The foliage displays beautiful colors, and the weather is generally comfortable for outdoor activities.

Sea breezes

Coastal areas of the Lowcountry often experience refreshing sea breezes. These breezes occur when cooler air from the ocean moves inland, providing relief from the heat and humidity.

Tidal influence

The Lowcountry is characterized by tidal patterns, influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and various estuaries. Tides can impact coastal areas, affecting water levels, boating and beach activities.

Infamous hurricanes 

The Lowcountry has been affected by several hurricanes throughout its history. Here are a few recent hurricanes that have impacted South Carolina. 

Damage from Hurricane Hugo in 1989 is shown near McClellanville. ©spectrumlocalnews.com by Mike Burton

Hurricane Hugo (1989)

Hurricane Hugo made landfall near Charleston on September 22, 1989, as a Category 4 hurricane. It caused extensive damage along the coast and inland areas, including widespread power outages, destruction of homes and loss of life. While Hilton Head was orignially projected to take a direct hit, the storm took a late turn, and the island was mostly spared. Hugo inflicted $11 billion in damage.

Hurricane Florence (2018)

Although Hurricane Florence made landfall in neighboring North Carolina, it significantly impacted South Carolina. The storm produced heavy rainfall and caused severe flooding in many parts of the state, particularly in the Pee Dee and Grand Strand regions. Major rivers in the state experienced historic flooding, leading to widespread damage and numerous evacuations.

Hurricane Matthew (2016)

Hurricane Matthew struck the southeastern United States in early October 2016. It made landfall near Hilton Head Island as a Category 1 hurricane, causing significant storm surge, coastal flooding and wind damage. The storm resulted in the evacuation of coastal areas and caused extensive power outages. It caused more than $52 million worth of damage in Beaufort County. 

Hurricane damage, destruction  and debris

Hurricane Dorian (2019)

While not a direct hit, Hurricane Dorian impacted South Carolina’s coastline in early September 2019. Although the storm weakened to a Category 2 hurricane before reaching the state, it still brought strong winds, heavy rain and storm surge to coastal areas. There was beach erosion and localized flooding in some areas. The storm left around 25,000 without power in Beaufort County.

Buoy moved to the shore of Hilton Head Island after Hurricane Matthew
A massive U.S. Coast Guard buoy washed up on South Forest Beach following Tropical Storm Irma in 2017. It was a popular photo-op for months before it was removed.

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