- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1880, there has been only one white Christmas on the South Carolina coast. But that storm, which blew in 25 years ago this week, set records from Florida to North Carolina.

The storm brought 15 inches of snow to Wilmington, North Carolina, 14 inches to Myrtle Beach and eight to Charleston.

And despite the problems it caused air travelers and holiday drivers, it also brought a bit of a respite from Hurricane Hugo. For a few days, the widespread debris and damage from the Category 4 storm that hit South Carolina three months earlier was hidden under a blanket of white.

The snow covered broken wood and other debris piled up in yards and, for a brief time, hid the blue tarps that covered many roofs in that were torn up by Hugo and its 135 mph winds, which smashed into Charleston that September.

Hugo claimed 13 lives in South Carolina and caused $7 billion damage on the U.S. mainland, most of it in the state. Three months later, residents were still struggling to recover.

Here’s no chance of a white Christmas this year: temperatures forecast to rise into the 60s.

It was 25 years ago Monday that the snow that brought the area’s only recorded white Christmas began falling. It would fall into Christmas Eve day of that year.

The National Weather Service reports that snowflakes fell as far south as Daytona Beach and Tampa, while there was measureable snowfall in Jacksonville, giving northern Florida, too, its first white Christmas on record. The storm and the ensuing cold also caused heavy damage to the Florida citrus crop.

The storm system brought snow to New Orleans, and Savannah received 4 inches.

After the storm moved through, frigid air poured into the region with many areas on the coast posting record lows on Christmas Day. The cold burst water pipes along the coast and, in Wilmington depleted water supplies, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency.

Climatological records show there have been white Christmases elsewhere in South Carolina, but not many. It has even, from time to time, snowed on Christmas Day. A 1945 storm brought 5 inches of snow to Spartanburg on Christmas while 3.5 inches were reported in Walhalla in the mountains two years later. A 1962 storm left an inch of snow on the ground in Greenville.

Assistant State Climatologist Wes Tyler said that, historically, while the state gets more snow events in January, the heaviest snows fall in February.

The National Climatic Data Center projects that, in any given year, there is only a 3 percent chance there will be an inch of snow on ground in Charleston, Beaufort, Florence or Greenville on Christmas.

Ron Morales, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston said the odds are always long.

“To get the snow you need a deep layer of cold air,” he says. “We’re far south so it’s hard to get the deep cold air down to our latitude anyway. You couple that with the odds of doing it on Christmas and having precipitation. It’s just not very high.”

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