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The weather here? Rarely frightful

IT’S (ALMOST) ALWAYS SUNNY IN THE LOWCOUNTRY.


Story by Lisa Allen 

The best part of Hilton Head weather is that one never has to wait very long for a beautiful day, even in the middle of “winter.” By winter, we mean highs in the 50s, lows in the 40s, even in January. But before you have a chance to get weary of putting on two (two!) layers of clothing, we’ll have a couple of days in the 70s, even in December or January.

One factor what newcomers realize pretty quickly, though, is 50 or 80 degrees feels different than it does up north. That’s because the area stays pretty humid. What that means is it feels colder in the winter and hotter in the summer. Pay attention to the “real feel” temperature when planning your day. So, while you might wear shorts up north if it’s sunny and in the 50s, you might feel chilly here. Conversely, if you can play golf comfortably up north when it’s 90, it’s going to feel quite a bit warmer here. Not to worry, you’ll soon figure out how to calibrate.


Local weather

Summer high: 91 degrees
Hottest month: August (90 degrees)
Hottest temperature: 105 degrees (July 1986)
Winter low: 39 degrees
Coldest month: January (60 degrees)
Coldest temperature: 3 degrees (January 1985)
Driest month: November (2.4 inches of rain)
Wettest month: August (9 inches of rain)
Sunny days expected: 215
Snow days expected: 0
Most comfortable months: May, October
Least comfortable months: July, August


Sea breeze makes me feel fine

Weather in Southeast South Carolina is often affected by sea breezes, which stem from the temperature (and thus pressure) differences between the land and sea. The resulting circulation can have a big impact on temperatures, winds and thunderstorms as well as rip currents from onshore winds. The back end of a sea breeze often brings cooler temperatures, clearing skies and breezy conditions.


Sea fog

Sea fog is a specific type of fog and occurs when warm, moist air flows over relatively colder ocean waters. This typically is a cool season weather phenomenon occurring from November through April. Some mornings, it’s pretty cool to see the fog over the ocean while you’re standing in sunshine.


Thunderstorms

In this area severe thunderstorms are most frequent from spring through fall when temperatures are normally warm, and moisture is high. Pay attention to weather reports because some storms can (and do) produce tornadoes.


Rip currents

Rip currents are only dangerous if you don’t know what they are or if you are not a good swimmer, as they can carry you a few hundred feet offshore in less than a minute. And despite what we’ve seen in movies, rip currents don’t pull you under water, they pull you away from shore.

Rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes. The terms rip tides and undertows are often used, but they don’t accurately describe what’s going on.

RIP CURRENTS CAN SOMETIMES BE IDENTIFIED BY SOME OF THESE FAMILIAR SIGNS:
• A channel of churning or choppy water
• A line of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily seaward
• Area having a noticeable difference in water channel (almost looking like a river in the ocean)
• A break in the incoming wave.

HOW TO DEAL WITH RIP CURRENTS:
• Learn how to swim.
• If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
• Never fight against the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself. Face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
• If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard or call 911. Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape. Many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current. Do not attempt to save the person caught unless you know how to escape a rip current.
• Stay at least 100 feet away from groins (or rock piles), piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near them.


Waterspouts

A waterspout is a rapidly rotating column of air extending from the base of moderate or towering cumulus clouds to the surface of the water. Only rarely does the visible funnel extend from the cloud base to the sea surface. However, you can assume that if the funnel extends at least halfway between the cloud base and the surface of the water, there is an invisible funnel extending all the way down. They are most common from June to September in the morning or evening. Compared to tornadoes, waterspouts don’t move as quickly nor last as long. However, their wind speeds can be dangerous. Determine which way it’s moving and head the opposite direction.


With sunshine comes rain

It does rain here, but unless it’s part of a tropical storm or depression coming through, rain rarely fills an entire day. Chances are, you just have to shift plans to avoid a couple of hours of the possibility of rain. And because much of the Lowcountry is on sand, the rain drains away quickly. In short, most of the time Hilton Head features sunshine, warm breezes and comfortable temps all winter. And with our hot summers, trust us, you’ll get used to sweaty hugs. It’s a small price to pay for our corner of paradise. LL