Gator facing forward

Palmetto Past & Present: The Night An Alligator Fell From The Sky

South Carolina has seen its share of wacky weather in its 361 year history – gator storms included.

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South Carolina has seen some extreme meteorological occurrences over the years. There was that weird winter of 1973, which deposited a whopping 12.3 inches of snow on the Midlands in early February.  Then there are all those hurricanes – which have blown boats far inland and toppled major buildings from their foundations. And, of course, who can forget our “famously hot” summers – including one in 2012 which saw the mercury top out at a record 113 degrees in Richland County.

But there was also that time a storm dropped an alligator on Charleston …

No, really. It happened.

Seven decades before the birth of Hollywood and a full 170 years before the film ‘Sharknado‘ hit movie screens, the Holy City got a taste of the real thing. A contemporary article from the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans reported what happened on July 2, 1843.



“Sunday (a week ago) was a day terrible for its heat in Charleston, S.C.,” the story began. The paper called it “one of the most oppressive days ever inflicted on mortal man.”

Given the Lowcountry’s savagely brutal heat, that’s really saying something.

“But toward night, the oppressiveness of the heat was relieved by a thunderstorm,” the report continued.

So far, so good. Anyone who has ever suffered through a stifling summer in South Carolina knows how typical that is. But as the storm hit, things got really weird, really fast.

The Times-Picayune report continued by sharing an account originally published by The Charleston Mercury.

“The whole firmament growled thunder and shot lightning,” the hometown paper noted.

Purple prose aside, it sounds like it was one doozie of a storm.

“It was blinding to look at,” the paper continued. “Thunderbolts shook the solidest of structures … St. Paul’s Church was struck, but not seriously injured.”


An American alligator resting on a log in its natural habitat. As you’ve probably observed; not downtown Charleston. (Getty)


Speaking of said injuries, the paper noted “we have heard of no casualty, unless we may account as such the raining down of an alligator.”

Wait, what?

Yes, you read that right. It was “about two feet long” and plopped down right at the corner of Wentworth and Anson Streets.

“We have not been lucky enough to find anyone who saw him come down — but the important fact that he was there is incontestable.”

Since nobody knew just how the reptile got there, “it was decided unanimously that he rained down.”

As for the poor, unfortunate reptile itself, he seemed just as startled to see people as they were to see him.




“The beast had a look of wonder and bewilderment about him that showed plainly enough he must have gone through a remarkable experience,” the paper noted.

What exactly happened? The leading theory posits that the animal may have been sucked into a waterspout and unceremoniously deposited downtown. But remember, nobody actually saw the critter descend from the heavens. So it’s possible the alligator got disoriented during the storm and somehow wandered around until someone eventually spotted it.

We’ll leave it to our readers to decide what they believe the truth of the matter might be …

This much is certain, however: A two-foot alligator turning up on the streets of Charleston was – and probably always will be – wildly out of the ordinary. Folks there talked about it for months.

So, while Charlestonians cannot claim (as they say in the movie “Twister“) “We’ve got cows!” locals can at least brag, “We once got a gator!” As the saying goes: “Art imitates life.”

To the best of our knowledge, no similar incidents have happened again in the 181 years since. But take heart: The 2024 hurricane season officially starts in less than ninety days.

So you never know …



Mark Powell (Provided)

J. Mark Powell is an award-winning former TV journalist, government communications veteran, and a political consultant. He is also an author and an avid Civil War enthusiast. Got a tip or a story idea for Mark? Email him at



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1 comment

Enjoyed It March 5, 2024 at 10:57 pm

Cute story! Thanks for sharing it!


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