How will coastal flooding affect Myrtle Beach?

Myrtle Beach is at a potentially lower risk compared to the rest of coastal South Carolina for coastal flooding throughout the century, according to a report from the Union for Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization.

The study is based off of whether or not 10 percent of an area will flood 26 times a year, an average of about twice per month. Flooding shown in the study is the cause of rising high tides, and does not occur after storm events.

“We determined that was a threshold that can be applied across the county,” Erika Spanger-Siefgried, senior climate analyst at Union for Concerned Scientists, said. “Almost every community has surpassed our threshold by the end of the century. [Myrtle Beach], I think it’s one of the communities that doesn’t.”

An online map shows how certain areas along the coast will flood today, in 2035, 2060, 2080 and 2100.

Flooding today occurs in Little River and Murrells Inlet, but North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach and Garden City are areas with low chronic inundation, due to Myrtle Beach being located on slightly higher ground compared to other coastal cities.

According to the map, major flooding – aside from a major weather occurrence such as a hurricane – does not begin in these areas until 2060.

“Myrtle Beach, we’re kind of blessed with higher ground,” Paul Gayes, Director of Burrough and Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies, and professor of marine science and geology at Coastal Carolina University, said.

However, Gayes does believe that it is difficult to make an exact prediction on how water will rise for specific areas.

“Some of the projections are very difficult,” Gayes said. “It’s not just a bathtub ring. The coast is a dynamic structure that responds. It doesn’t mean that everyone on the planet is going to experience the same thing.”

For places like Myrtle Beach, normal flooding will occur during high tide. Factors such as wind patterns, elevation and weather will affect which areas flood.

“If you go into parts of Garden City now, it’s flooding regularly even in high tides,” Gayes said. “So it wouldn’t take much for that to be happening more.

“In Myrtle Beach, we’re pretty high ground. It may not be such a high impact.”

Megan Tomasic: 843-626-0343, @MeganTomasic