Flooding & Sea Level Rise in the SC Lowcountry

Mean High Water (MHW) is a project documenting the impacts of sea level rise & flooding in and beyond the South Carolina Lowcountry. The title is in reference to the MHW tidal datum defined and maintained by the NOAA Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Service.

The tides of Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean are increasingly encroaching into the natural and built environment of Charleston and the Lowcountry. The rate of increase in the number of coastal flood events is alarming. Approximately 45% of all coastal floods observed in Charleston Harbor from 1953 through 2020 have occurred since 2010. An average of 18.8 coastal floods occurred per year in the 1990s. In the 2010s, the annual average was 42.4 coastal floods2, an increase of over 200%.

MHW was started in 2020 by photographer and engineer Jared Bramblett. It is intended to be an evolving and collaborative documentation of the impacts of flooding. If you are interested in participating and submitting to the project, please reach out. All content on this site is copyrighted. If you are interested in using any content, please submit a request.

Jared Bramblett

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All thoughts and opinions presented on this site are solely those of the author and are not necessarily those of any other organizations.

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Charleston Harbor, Cooper River Entrance1

Coastal Floods (>7-ft MLLW)2
89 (2019)
70 (2022)
68 (2020)
58 (2015)
55 (2016)

Major Coastal Floods (>8-ft MLLW)2
7 (2020)
6 (2015)
4 (2021)
4 (2019)
3 (2022, 2018)

Peak Tide Crests (MLLW)3
09/22/1989 - 12.52-ft (Hugo)
08/11/1940 - 10.23-ft (Unnamed)
09/11/2017 - 9.92-ft (Irma)
10/08/2016 - 9.29 (Matthew)
01/01/1987 - 8.81-ft 

29 of the 43 (67.4%) major flood tides on record have occurred since 2015.3

Statistics current as of 01/01/2023


1Tidal Benchmark Station - Charleston, Cooper River Entrance, SC - Station ID: 8665530

2NWS Coastal Flood Event Database

3Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, Charleston, SC 

Reviewing Flooding from January through March 2021

April 21, 2021
Stormwater flooding on Line Street in the Westside Community.

So far, it’s been a relatively quiet year for flooding in the Charleston area. As of April 20th, there have been seven (7) tides that have exceeded the tidal flooding threshold (MLLW = 7-feet), with five (5) of them occurring in January and two (2) of them in March. Of the seven (7) flood tides, the highest was peaked at 7.23-feet MLLW on March 3rd, which is classified as a minor flood. That’s not entirely surprising, as January, February, & March have historically averaged the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st lowest number of flood tides. As the chart below shows, the first quarter of 2021 was tide the fourth highest number of tidal floods we’ve seen in Charleston Harbor.

We also saw an intense rainfall on the afternoon of March 18th that resulted in flooding across the area, particularly across the Charleston Peninsula. Officially, a record daily maximum rainfall of 2.16-inches was recorded at Waterfront Park, breaking the old record of 1.83-inches set in 1969. The photos below are from the Westside and North Central areas of the peninsula. The floods resulting from this rainfall were not as bad as the ones we saw in September of 2020, and as Sarah Williams pointed out in an Instagram comment, it was first stormwater flooding event in six (6) months.

© 2022