Snow isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of the Southern United States. And it’s for good reason. The region typically receives little measurable snowfall except for its mountainous regions.
But, that’s not to say it’s completely devoid of snow. On rare occasions, South Carolina’s weather allows residents and visitors the opportunity to sled and build snowmen.
While South Carolina may be more known for its beaches, sunshine, and summer fun, the Palmetto State does boast some beautiful winter destinations for those seeking a little snow come winter (emphasis on a little). The state receives significantly more rain, sleet, and freezing rain than snow.
So, yes, it does snow in South Carolina. The state’s humid subtropical climate isn’t going to produce enough winter precipitation to break any national snowfall records, but some parts of the state do see enough powder to at least fly down a hill on a sled for a few days out of the year.
Regions of South Carolina
Four government regions make up the State of South Carolina: Lowcountry, Pee Dee, Midlands, and Upstate. From historical Charleston on the coast to the more rugged Greenville at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains, snowfall varies significantly depending on which region you intend to visit.
Lowcountry is home to Charleston, a southern city rivaled in historical southern charm only by Savannah in Georgia. This predominantly coastal region sees so little snowfall that it has gone years without accumulation more than once.
On the rare occasion that it gets more than a light dusting, local news stations use epic names such as The Great Blizzard of 1899, which consisted of 4 inches of total accumulation. Most other places wouldn’t attach such a lofty name to 4 inches of snow, but for a region that doesn’t often see even a quarter of that all year, it’s understandable.
As of April 2022, Charleston hasn’t seen more than a trace accumulation of snow since 5.3 inches fell in 2018. And before that? Charleston only saw trace amounts of snow between 2018 and 2010.
Pee Dee makes up South Carolina’s northern coastal and slightly inland counties. The region gets its name from the state-recognized Pee Dee Native Tribe. Florence, a city a little over an hour inland from Myrtle Beach, saw around 5.5 inches of snow in 2022. This was the city’s first recorded accumulation since it saw half an inch in 2017.
Sumter is one of the furthest inland cities within the Pee Dee region and averages about an inch of snow annually.
The middle region of South Carolina is aptly named the Midlands. The state’s capital, Columbia, is located here. The city averages about an inch of snow per year but experienced a snowier-than-usual winter in 2022 after two inches were recorded at Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
As you go further north in the Midlands, the average accumulation increases a couple of inches. Rock Hill is less than 30 minutes from the North Carolina border and averages 3 inches annually.
It’s no surprise that on average, the majority of snow in South Carolina falls in its northern inland region, known as Upstate. The Blue Ridge Mountains range across a small sliver of the state, and the added elevation contributes to the region boasting an average annual snowfall of 12 inches.
So, while the entirety of South Carolina doesn’t see a lot of snow, there are areas that can provide residents and visitors with enough snow on average for a few snowball fights and sledding – at least for a day or two. That said, some regions can go years without any recordable accumulation,
Significant Snow Events
South Carolinians know that some areas go years between even light flurries of snow. But, there have been a few points in the past hundred years or so that have given children proper snow days that would even keep kids further north home from school.
The Great Southeastern Snowstorm of 1973
Any list discussing snowfall in South Carolina has to start with The Great Southeastern Snowstorm of 1973. As one of the more significant snowstorms in the entire Southeastern U.S., the storm made a state-wide blanket of snow from February 9-11, 1973.
The storm dropped 24 inches on Rimini in the Midlands region within 24 hours. It was the most significant snowfall in the state’s recorded history, along with 18 inches in the Pee Dee region city of Darlington and 7.1 inches in Charleston in the Lowcountry.
One of the most interesting facts about this snowstorm was its path. While the Upstate region sees more snowfall than the rest of the state nearly every other year, it largely spared the region from this snowstorm relative to the other areas.
The storm hit the Midlands the heaviest, while Pee Dee and Lowcountry experienced legitimate accumulation. This record is fascinating since these areas usually go years without even a light flurry of snow.
While Rimini holds the record for the most accumulation within 24 hours, the Upstate mountain of Caesars Head in Greenville County accumulated the most snowfall from a single storm in 1969, when 28.9 inches fell between February 15 and 17.
As one of the highest peaks in South Carolina, it isn’t uncommon for the area to receive more snow than the state average, but 28.9 inches is a respectable accumulation anywhere.
Snow on the Coast
The Great Snowstorm of 1973 set many snowfall records in the Southeast. It includes Charleston with the 7.1 inches that fell on the city during the storm.
That record would stand until 1989 when 8 inches blanketed the coastal city as part of the Christmas Snowstorm that broke records in Charleston and popular coastal cities in neighboring North Carolina of Wilmington (15.3 inches) and Cape Hatteras (13.3 inches).
This storm hit the Southeastern coast from December 22-24, 1989, not only in the Carolinas but even as far south as Florida.
South Carolina Winter Festivals
Despite not being the snowiest of states and the fact that many cities can go years between any measurable snowfall, South Carolinians still enjoy celebrating winter from the Upstate mountains to Lowcountry beaches.
Night of a Thousand Candles
Brookgreen Gardens is one of South Carolina’s premier destinations any time of the year, but the massive botanical paradise steps things up to celebrate the holidays. Nearly 3000 hand-lit candles illuminate the gardens along with countless sparkling lights on the trees.
Dates and times vary from year to year, but the event typically runs most nights in December. You can check out Brookgreen Gardens’ website for more information on this event, as well as others they host throughout the year.
Located in the Upstate region, Greenville already has a leg up on most of the state in regards to snow and winter. However, the city doesn’t use that as an excuse to laze around. United Ice on Main is a premier ice skating experience that runs annually from November to January.
The open-air skating rink sits squarely in the city’s downtown and has provided winter fun to more than 80,000 people since it started in 2011.
Each year, Old Town Rock Hill transforms into a quaint holiday village for its annual Christmasville event. The festival takes place in early December and features a variety of artists and craft vendors, carriage rides, and more.
Christmasville celebrates the holiday season and honors Vernon Grant. Grant was the creator and artist behind Snap!, Crackle! and Pop! of Rice Krispies fame. The famed illustrator married a Rock Hill native and settled in the area until he died in 1990.
The Hollywild Animal Preserve has been hosting its annual light event for more than 30 years. While you’re there, you’ll:
- Drive-thru the lighting event, which boasts large nativity scenes
- Go through the enchanted forest where animals can come and eat out of your hands
- Receive treats from Santa and Mrs. Clause for those who come out
All proceeds from Holiday Lights Safari Benefit go toward improving the lives of the animals that live at the preserve. The non-profit preserve has been in operation since 1970.
So, if anyone asks you, “Does it snow in South Carolina?” you’ll know the answer: Yes, but it doesn’t get much snow.
But, you know what, that’s okay. There are so many other places around the United States where you can have that kind of fun for months out of the year.
South Carolina isn’t without its winter charm, though. The area gets cold enough in the winter months that you can put on a sweater without usually having to worry about snowy road conditions.
So, if you are lucky enough to be there when snow falls and things turn white, enjoy it for the rare and beautiful occasion it is.