Winter weather: Storm drenches Florida before moving up the coast



A violent late-night storm brought heavy rain and strong winds to the East Coast on Sunday, breaking rainfall records, flooded streets and throwing holiday celebrations into the water.

Authorities have rescued dozens of motorists stranded by floodwaters in the coastal community of Georgetown, South Carolina, said Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach. More than 9 inches (22.9 centimeters) of rain have fallen in the area between Charleston and Myrtle Beach since Saturday evening.

“It's not just the areas that normally flood that are at risk for flooding,” Broach said. “It's areas where we don't really expect flooding problems… It's like a tropical storm, but it just happens to be in December.”

According to the National Weather Service, the high tide in Charleston Harbor reached its fourth highest level on record and was “well above the highest tide of a non-tropical system.”

Human-caused climate change means that even relatively weak weather systems can produce storm surges once associated only with hurricanes, says meteorologist Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground. In South Carolina, the situation is made worse by natural subsidence along the coast.

By 2050, sea levels in Charleston are expected to rise another 14 inches (35.6 centimeters), Masters said.

“This is the sixth time this year that Charleston has experienced major coastal flooding. 100 years ago, most of these floods would not have been as major because sea levels have risen so much,” he said.

The storm was expected to gain strength as it moved along the Georgia and Carolina coasts, bringing heavy rain and gusty winds before hitting New England on Monday morning, the weather service said. Wind gusts of 35 to 45 mph could topple trees, especially on wet ground.

In Charleston and throughout the Lowcountry of South Carolina, there were numerous road closures and the streets were full of stranded cars.

There were no reports of injuries or deaths in Georgetown County, Broach said. Gusty winds were strong enough to knock down some signs and trees. Outdoor Christmas decorations were thrown through the air, she said.

According to media reports, water rescues also occurred on the islands of Kiawah and Seabrook.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 3 inches of rain fell at Charleston International Airport in 24 hours – nearly five times the previous record set in 1975.

Further up the coast, light to moderate flooding was expected on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina.

According to, there were more than 31,000 power outages in South Carolina, more than 14,000 in North Carolina and more than 11,000 in Florida.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul warned of possible rainfall of between 2 and 4 inches, strong winds and possible flooding in parts of the state. Flood warnings were issued in many locations in New York City, and storm warnings were issued throughout the city and on Long Island.

“We will get through this storm, but preparation is key,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. The city administration told residents to expect several hours of rain and possible rush hour delays Monday morning.

The weather service said colder air behind the storm will trigger lake effect snow over the Great Lakes toward the Appalachian Mountains and northern New York state through Tuesday.

The storm brought up to 5 inches of rain across Florida, flooding streets and causing the cancellation of boat parades and other holiday celebrations.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings and minor flood advisories for a broad swath of the state, from the southwestern Gulf Coast to Jacksonville, but major airports remained open as the busy holiday season began.

“Today is not a day for swimming or boating!” said Sheriff Carmine Marceno of Lee County on Florida’s southwest coast on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Coastal warnings were issued for much of Florida as strong winds churned up waters in the Gulf and along the North Atlantic coast.

The storm could be good news for residents of southwest Florida, who are struggling with water shortages and drought ahead of the region's typical dry season.

The weather service also warned of rainfall between 2 and 4 inches in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The heaviest rainfall is expected overnight into Sunday. Flooding in cities and small rivers is expected through Monday, and at least some rivers will experience minor flooding.

Meteorologists also warned of strong winds in coastal areas, hurricane-force winds off the coast, moderate flooding along the Delaware Bay and widespread minor coastal flooding elsewhere.

The weather service said there is a slight risk of excessive rainfall in parts of New England through Monday morning, with the possibility of flash flooding. Northern New England is expected to see the heaviest rains Monday through Tuesday morning.