GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) - The destruction from hurricanes can linger long after the storm's winds and rain quiet down.
The Grand Strand knows first hand that hurricanes are one of Earth's most powerful forces. The best natural defenses against these whirling winds are the area's marshes and wetlands.
"They work like a dam, reduce the amount of discharge that goes to the streams. So they absorb some of the water so the flow of the water to the streams reduces," says Dr. Hamed Majizedah, with Clemson University's Baruch institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science.
Researchers are studying not only the speed of the flow of flooding waters, but what's inside the rushing rivers too. The main contaminating culprit is carbon
"All the carbons go directly to the stream," Majizedah said. "Some of them are absorbed by the wetlands, reducing the amount of carbon going into the stream, which could become greenhouse gas or which can go to treatment plants and create disinfection by products."
According to Majizedah, these disinfection by-products, or DBPs, come from the carbons chemically reacting with chlorine, a common chemical to clean water people drink out of the tap.
According to researchers, these carbons can last in the ecosystem long after the storm has passed.
"It can be 40 to 50 days, maybe even longer, before levels of disorganic carbon, the precursor to disinfection by-products, return to base flow." said Dr Alexander Ruecker.
He also pointed out that Hurricane Joaquin's heavy rain resulted in a year's worth of carbon. This is why he suggests having bottled water is essential to staying safe.
"That's probably the best thing you can do because then if you have an extreme weather event - hurricane or flooding - you're independent from your tap water for at least a few days," Ruecker said.
For those who are interested in learning more about the impacts of hurricanes on the local environment, Majizedah said they are planning more science presentations throughout the year.