Climate versus weather in Myrtle Beach

Story by Lois Carol Wheatley

Mark Twain wrote, "Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get."

The good news is that the temperate climate of Myrtle Beach is nationally renowned for its warm abundance of sun and sand, gentle ocean breezes that moderate the summer's heat, a Southern setting that mitigates winter's cold. It has been called the Golf Coast because it's possible to play golf in one's shirtsleeves pretty much the whole year round.

When been called the Golf Coast because it's possible to play golf in one's shirtsleeves pretty much the whole year round.

The average number of sunny days per year in Myrtle Beach is 215. The average air temperature is 64 degrees and the average water temperature is 68 degrees. Ocean water temperature is 20 degrees warmer than New York during the summer months and 10 degrees warmer during the winter months.

The ocean's considerable influence has a huge impact on reducing the summer heat and humidity at Myrtle Beach when compared to nearby inland areas. Nearby Florence averages an annual 65 days of heat in excess of 90 degrees, whereas Myrtle Beach averages only 21. And at the end of a long, sweaty day playing golf, lounging on the beach or hitting the attractions, you'll very likely get an evening thunderstorm to cool you off. Most of the annual precipitation the area receives falls between June and September, and on a daily basis it's often just enough to take the sizzle off the streets.

Average winter daytime temperatures are a delightful 57 to 61 degrees, and average nighttime lows a relatively mild 36 to 38 degrees. That makes the area virtually frost-free, with an average of only 33 nights of frost. Most year-round residents are able to leave their tropical house plants out on the patio year-round. Similarly, snowfall is very rare and seldom amounts to much. Myrtle Beach's Koppen climate classification is humid subtropical climate, typical of the Gulf and South Atlantic states.

The bad news is that sometimes Myrtle Beach gets some of that weather to which Mark Twain referred. Most of the big hurricane hits center on the North Carolina coast rather than South Carolina, at least in part because the northern state juts out farther into the Atlantic Ocean, but once in a while, South Carolina gets a dose of stormy weather.

Floyd's flood

The biggest thing in recent memory is the deep swirling waters of Hurricane Floyd on September 15, 1999. Early predictions projected Floyd would make landfall near Daytona Beach, Florida, but then as the storm turned and veered off to take a northerly route, that projection was revised to Jacksonville, Florida, then Brunswick and Savannah, Georgia, then Beaufort and Charleston, South Carolina.

Floyd moved slowly towards the coast, was downgraded to Category Two, and beguiled his watchers into believing he didn't have what it took to be a contender.

The 1999 hurricane season was among the most prolific on record, with 12 named storms, eight hurricanes, five of them major hurricanes - Bret, Cindy, Floyd, Gert and Lenny - all of them apparently competing for top honors. With a little help from his friends, Floyd handily beat out the competition.

The eyes of the nation were on North Carolina for the days and weeks following the Floyd flood, but like surrounding areas, Myrtle Beach set an all-time county-wide record for rainfall on September 16, 1999: 14.8 inches. That same year went down in the record books as the wettest year in Horry County, at a total of 77.35 inches.

More Information

Terms: South Carolina Hurricanes

Information on South Carolina Hurricanes.

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