Pawleys Island experiences severe sand dune erosion - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Pawleys Island experiences severe sand dune erosion

PAWLEYS ISLAND, SC (WMBF) – In some areas on the beaches in Pawleys Island, the dunes had completely eroded away. Town officials met with FEMA to show them the seriousness of the erosion.

Pawleys Island Officials said they met with FEMA Wednesday as they toured Georgetown County. They showed FEMA a few areas that were hit bad, including the spot where we conducted the interview. Their goal was to outline the seriousness of the erosion and the potential of the loss of structures if another storm hits.

Mayor Bill Otis says he doesn’t know how much it will cost to repair the beach but he says it’s absolutely in the millions just for Pawleys Island. He says engineers from Coastal Carolina University will need to determine how much sand was lost from Pawleys Island as well as all the beaches in Georgetown County. He says that by next week they should have some pretty firm numbers.

“The main issue now is to protect structures and put this back the way it was prior to the storm,” said Mayor Otis.

He said FEMA gathered information, and he feels what they saw was adequate for them to go to the next stage of FEMA investigation for all of Georgetown County beaches.

According to Otis, depending on where you are on the beach you can see the dunes eroded from 6 all the way to 18 feet. In some areas the dunes have completely eroded away; this allowed the tides to reach people’s homes. Otis told me in some places the tide washed through homes, into roads and into the creek.

Otis told me he hasn’t seen the beach this eroded since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

“This is the most significant beach erosion that we’ve had,” said Mayor Otis. “I’ve been mayor here 18 years and this is the most significant beach erosion we’ve had in 18 years.”

He says after Hurricane Hugo it took federal and state funding and local labor to get the beach back to the way it was. And he says this case will be no different.

Dunes aren’t just sand structures covered in grass, they actually play an important part on beaches. They absorb the impact and protect inland areas from high energy storms and act as a barrier for tides. They also keep the water from destroying structures.

Otis told me tourist on the coast of South Carolina is one of the biggest industries in the state. The dunes ultimately protect that and play a critical role. He says the health of the beach and the protection of the dunes is all that stands between the beach and the loss of the tourism. Buildings, houses, roads and different infrastructure are just a few important things that can be loss by the complete erosion of dunes

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