News center
Excellent post-sale attention

Tropical storm forces sand inward on Edisto Beach

Sep 01, 2023

EDISTO BEACH — Residents and crews on this barrier island shoveled debris and sand Aug. 31 after tropical-storm force winds brought by Idalia stirred up ocean waves and pummeled dunes on the beach, sending salt water and a foot of sand onto the streets.

This island community 50 miles south of Charleston has endured worse. In 2007, Hurricane Matthew ripped out porches from the ground, shattered driveways and plowed through an entire house.

But Idalia's arrival Aug. 30 underscored the vulnerability of this picturesque beach and renewed residents' demands to renourish 4 miles of sand dunes — barriers that protect property from high waves and storm surge.

After the storm passed, Frank Roddey raked ocean debris from beneath his elevated wooden home at the start of Palmetto Boulevard, the main drag along the beach. He proudly unraveled a University of South Carolina flag hanging from his screened porch that got tangled up during the storm.

The 59-year-old said he has been coming to Edisto with his family since he was a teen.

“It’s one of the few family beaches left that aren’t commercialized, he said. “If you want to party, you bring it, but it’s not gonna be down here.”

Yet the beach, at least physically, is changing, a reality he can’t ignore.

When water breeched the dunes the previous evening, it rushed past the beachfront houses and the roadway all the way onto his property. His tool and laundry rooms flooded.

“The dunes are in such bad shape,” he said, dabbing sweat off his forehead with a blue hand towel. “We’re more often seeing the water getting in and getting across the road.”

The dunes were all but erased on areas of the beach. For some, whether their homes were damaged was dependent on if they were guarded by a sand dune.

The dunes have not been renourished since 2016, when the town completed a $19 million beach renourishment project shortly after Hurricane Matthew struck.

Mayor Crawford Moore said maintaining the dunes is essential to protecting property both on the beach and farther back. He said the issue is particularly salient with sea levels rising. Funding remains a persistent problem.

"It's always money. Someone once told me, 'When it's not about the money, it's probably about the money.' And, in this case, it's kind of the same thing," the mayor said from his office Aug. 31.

The town did ink a 50-year deal with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in February to reduce the risk of coastal storm damages to buildings and infrastructure on the island. The first phase of the agreement, which officials aim to set in motion in the fall of 2025, will feature a beach renourishment project, according to Town Administrator Mark Aakhus.

Crews will pump 930,000 cubic yards of sand from the ocean floor onto the beach to form a smooth ramp. It will cost more than $30 million.

The mayor said the town has agreed to fund 35 percent — $11 million — of the project, while the federal government will foot the rest.

In the following decades, the Army Corps will pay for all emergency improvements, while the parties will split the cost of periodic renourishment every 15 years.

For the project to move forward, property owners near the beach must sign an easement agreement.

Moore, who is retired from careers in the U.S. Air Force and the retail clothing business, said the hassle comes with the territory.

“It’s part of the deal," Moore said. "You live at the beach, you live at sea level, you’re going to lose power in the storm and you’re going to get flooding. If you lived in the Midwest, it would be tornadoes. If you lived in California, it would be fires and landslides.”

More than 2,000 customers with Dominion Energy lost power along Edisto Beach at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 30, when a tree fell on overhead lines, according to a spokesman. The power was restored after 1 a.m.

Van Carpenter decided to ride out the storm in her beachfront rental. She and her husband, both of Fort Knox, Kentucky, rented the same house last summer when they cut their vacation short due to Hurricane Ian, which landed in Georgetown as a Category 1 storm.

She said Edisto Beach feels like home. She took delight in observing a nest of loggerhead sea turtles hatch in the sand earlier this week.

The dunes outside her rental did not last long after tropical-force storm winds started battering Edisto. Once the waves and wind ripped out the dunes, the rush of water hit the fencing in front of the backyard. Next, wind ripped out part of the house’s flooring, which was elevated on stilts.

Carpenter, who said she is fascinated by weather, was not discouraged. The following morning, she picked up trash along the beach. She said she wanted to help anyone whose home was damaged.

“This brings you back to where your appreciation should be for Mother Nature,” she said, adding she was glad she stayed.

Roddey, the property owner near the beach, struck a similar tone.

“It’s a choice you make,” he said. “It’s worth the trade.”

Reach Ema Schumer at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.

Idalia's arrival Aug. 30 on Edisto Beach underscored the vulnerability of this picturesque beach and renewed residents' demands to renourish 4 miles of sand dunes — barriers that protect property from high waves and storm surge. Read moreTropical storm forces sand inward on Edisto Beach

Twenty-five years from now, the monthly king tide alone will cause the same level of flooding that Idalia caused, sea level-rise projections show. Read moreIn 25 years, Idalia flood levels will be Charleston's monthly high tide, city leaders predict

The Chapin Labor Day Parade, which bills itself as one of the largest, if not the largest, parade in the state, is a traditional stop for Republican presidential hopefuls. Read moreScott, Trump, DeSantis campaigns will have presence at Chapin Labor Day Parade

Jeff Etheridge was staying at his vacation home in North Myrtle Beach when a waterspout or tornado tore off the home's roof. Read more'I had to get out of there': Man recalls Idalia ripping roof off North Myrtle Beach home