The surge from Hurricane Irma paved the roads south of Hazard Avenue here with sand — the flattened leftovers of dunes rebuilt last year to protect this waterfront community from the pounding Atlantic Ocean tide.
“It’s just a glorious mess,” said Frances Ward, as she washed the sand from the storage area beneath her home with a garden hose, and searched for a mini refrigerator the storm surge appeared to have swept away.
“We just got it all cleaned out from Hurricane Matthew, now here we go again,” Ward said.
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Those were also the sentiments of the island’s town council, which held an emergency meeting Tuesday morning to figure out the fastest way to clean up the mess and deal with the erosion caused by Irma before another storm hits.
“I don’t think anyone expected it to be as significant as it ended up being,” Ryan Fabbri, the town’s administrator told the council.
“It wasn’t the same severity as Matthew, yet it leaves us with almost the same problems, on a much smaller scale,” Fabbri said.
The northern end did not suffer as much dune erosion as the southern end during Monday’s storm. Mayor William Otis said the ocean surge shaved away about 10 to 12 feet off the top of the dune line.
Otis estimated the island lost about 25 percent of the sand that was replaced after Matthew, and with six more weeks left of hurricane season, the council said they have no choice but to rebuild the dunes as quickly as possible.
“It will take heavy equipment to remove it,” Fabbri said of the sand-covered roads. “It’s not something you’re going to do with a couple guys, some shovels and a wheelbarrow.”
Without the dunes, waterfront houses on Springs Avenue are left exposed to the twice-daily high tides, Fabbri said.
“No dune whatsoever between the homes and the ocean is not a good thing,” Fabbri said.
The council voted unanimously to start the cleanup and hire contractors to rebuild the dunes, and to send the bill to the state transportation department.
The work will start as soon as the Army Corps of Engineers issues the permit. The state has already agreed to reimburse the costs, Fabbri said. Officials don’t have the final estimate, but the price tag for repairs across the whole island after Matthew was $320,000.
The remnants of Irma also flooded Garden City along North Waccamaw Drive, but by mid afternoon Tuesday, bulldozers had pushed most of the sand out of the roadway and back to the beach access areas.
Bill Priest said he cleaned about two inches of sand out of one swimming pool on the corner of Cedar Avenue and North Waccamaw Drive.
“It was like a sandblast machine out here,” said Garden City resident Glenn Alan. “At least it was not as bad as last year, and everybody was safe.”
Many of the dunes at Garden City were completely wiped out during Matthew and reconstructed earlier this spring as part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ beach renourishment project.
Most of the dune line around the Garden City pier appeared to hold, but gaping holes were apparent further south.
Before Monday’s storm, heavy equipment was removed from Surfside Beach where the corps is overseeing that renourishment project.
Sara Corbett with the corps in Charleston said they expect pumping and dredging work will resume by week’s end at 8th Avenue South.
Once this work already under contract is completed, the corps would then survey the beach areas to determine if there was any significant erosion due to Irma where work was already completed.
“If erosion did occur, sand replacement would depend on funding and contractor availability,” Corbett said.
Micki Fellner, Surfside Beach town manager, said they won’t know for sure until the corps completes their estimation, but that it looks like the storm washed away all of the new sand that the project had deposited up until last week.
“It looks to be significant,” Fellner said.
Once the renourishment is completed in Surfside Beach, the project moves to North Myrtle Beach later this fall to repair beach erosion.
That work is expected to begin in October, but could be delayed if another storm strikes.
“I just pray and hope we don’t have another one,” Ward said. “I think we’re all just exhausted.”
“God bless us and God bless those people in Florida and Texas,” Ward said. “I’m complaining, but I then I think of them and that they have no home to go to. Other people have problems that are so much worse than we do.”