Winter's greatest threats

Extreme weather in South Carolina is usually defined by tornadoes or hurricanes. However, the winter season can be just as destructive to interests in the state.

Last February showed South Carolinians that the Midlands is not snowproof. Record snowfall rates and a textbook southern snowfall setup combined to dump eight plus inches across much of the area.

"We have had snow events in each of the winter months here in Columbia," says National Weather Service Meteorologist Dan Miller. "We've had snow in December, January, February and even early March believe it or not."

When it comes to financial impacts, wildfires can have a bigger impact than snow by jeopardizing one of the state's top industries. Wild fire season is most active from mid-winter to early spring. Robust high pressure systems can kick up winds on a normally dry season.

"Forestry is an industry here," says South Carolina Forestry Commission Public Information Director Scott Hawkins. "It's not just as an aesthetic. It's not just the trees providing scenery. They're providing the livelihoods to so many people."

Even atmospherically average years have spawned historic South Carolina wildfires. The Horry County wildfires are a prime example. Long range forecasts show the La Nina pattern setting up this winter which means warmer, drier conditions are expected to deepen drought and kick up high pressure winds.

"And that means the potential for fiestier wildfires in this state," says Hawkins.

While the wildfires can disastrous, experts say a major earthquake would be more devastating Hurricane Hugo. It's happened here before. The largest earthquake to rock the eastern seaboard, an impressive 7.3, hit Charleston. While the state averages, more than 20 measurable quakes a year, a major one is not out of the question.

"If we had one of similar magnitude, it would probably devastate the entire state," says South Carolina Emergency Management Public Information Coordinator Derrec Becker.

Earthquakes pose a greater risk than just about any other disaster because they're not predictable. Emergency officials say the best way for you to get through these events is by preparing and planning.