Southern comfort: working with the weather in Columbia, South Carolina
When a city’s Visitors Bureau brands their town as “The Real Southern Hot Spot,” pay attention. Far from the Atlantic’s cooling breezes and directly in the path of warm southwestern winds, Columbia, S.C. is noted for summer heat and humidity. The high temperatures, however, don't stop a stream of Memorial-to-Labor Day festival crowds from celebrating the city and its culture. But if mingling with strangers in oppressive heat isn't your cup of South Carolina sweet tea, Columbia obliges with three much milder seasons. Whenever you arrive, expect a warm Southern welcome.
Hot time: summer in the city
How hot is it? Between May and September, Columbia's daytime temps average above 85 degrees F, with July topping out at an average 95 degrees. The USC campus temperature hit 113 degrees F on June 29, 2012, making it the hottest day ever recorded in South Carolina. Nighttime lows seldom dip below the 70s. Toss in higher dew points to discourage evaporating perspiration, and you have a recipe for uncomfortably muggy days and nights.
Keeping your cool when it's not
Finding the “swell” in sweltering may be too much to ask, but the right clothes can bring significant relief from Columbia’s summer weather. Nothing puts a damper on fun like a day drenched in sweat. Choose a mix of casual and dressy clothes with light, heat-reflecting colors. Pack two outfits for outdoor days – one for active pursuits and a dry spare for later. Wardrobe essentials include:
- Lightweight, roomy shorts or long pants of cotton, linen, silk or another natural, moisture-wicking fiber.
- Loosely woven, roomy sleeveless or short-sleeved shirts and tops of the same fabrics.
- Sandals, sneakers or any shoes with breathable uppers.
- A broad-brimmed, breathable straw or mesh hat for portable shade.
- An umbrella. Summer is Columbia's rainy season, and the chance of heavy afternoon thunderstorms increases as the heat and humidity rise.
Know before you go
- South Carolina's hurricane season peaks in August and September, when Columbia may experience hurricane-related winds and flooding. Watch the weather reports before you head to Columbia.
- Columbia's mosquito season begins in March and escalates with the summer temperatures. Mosquitoes are most active in the early morning and at night. Protect yourself from the disease-carrying insects with long sleeves and long pants while outdoors, especially in shady or wooded areas. Convertible pants featuring zip-off legs instantly transform to shorts when the danger is past.
The marvelously mild months
The delightful spring and fall months enclose Columbia's hottest season like bookends holding up a row of steamy summertime novels. Springtime highs range from the low 70s in March to the mid-80s in May – warm enough for the flowers to bloom and the festivals to resume. September begins the annual cool-down. Over the next three months, the days gradually slip from the upper 80s into the upper 60s as the crowds move from the street celebrations to the football stadiums. By Halloween, the leaves change, sweater or light-jacket weather returns, and the heavy rains have gone their way. Even in the depths of winter, days flirt with the lower 60s, nights seldom dip below freezing, and snow is nearly a no-show.