Beaches in good shape for storms

07/04/2014 5:16 PM

07/04/2014 5:17 PM

Although Hurricane Arthur spinning by on Thursday brought the threat of some beach erosion, South Carolina’s beaches are in good shape to withstand what the new hurricane season may bring.

Coastal regulators say in recent years there have been few storms and millions spent on beach rebuilding projects – the latest a $30 million renourishment project that wound up at Folly Beach southwest of Charleston last month.

Hurricane Arthur was moving past the state well out at sea on Thursday, but forecasters with the National Weather Service warned swells sent landward and breaking in waves as high as 9 feet could cause some beach erosion.

But most beaches along the state’s almost 200-mile stretch of coastline are in good condition to deal with Arthur and other storms that may follow. The beaches are vital to South Carolina’s $18 billion tourism economy.

A look at the state of the beaches in South Carolina:

Renourishment efforts

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has spent about $80 million during the past decade rebuilding beaches along the coast for storm protection. Those projects include pouring sand on the beaches in the Myrtle Beach area, on Folly Beach and on Hunting Island near Beaufort. Local communities pay a share of the projects.

Trouble spots

Areas along inlets at the end of barrier islands are dynamic and experience erosion, said Jim Beasley, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Trouble spots include Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms, the northeast end of Sullivan’s Island, the northeast end of Harbor Island and the southern end of Pawleys Island. DeBordieu Beach in Georgetown County is also experiencing erosion.

Keeping beaches sandy

The Folly Beach and Myrtle Beach renourishment projects were authorized in the 1990s for 50 years. That includes periodic maintenance work like the project just completed at Folly Beach, said Brian Williams, a project manager for the Charleston District of the Corps of Engineers.

Preparing for storms

Before approaching storms, pictures are taken and surveys conducted of Corps projects to see what shape they are in. Then, when a storm passes, more checks are made to determine how well the projects held up and if repairs are needed, Williams said.

Better shape than before Hugo

Hurricane Hugo is the storm by which all others are measured in South Carolina – a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds that smashed into Charleston a quarter century ago. Beasley said the state’s beaches are generally in better shape now. One reason is seawalls are no longer allowed along the coast. The waves reflecting off seawalls scour the beachfront, causing a loss of sand. In addition, the 1990s saw the start of large-scale renourishment projects.

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