Hurricane Irene struck the east coast of the United States during the weekend of August 26th-28th and affected Charleston on the morning of Friday, August 26th. Overall, Irene was one of the more destructive hurricanes the east coast has seen in many years.
In the Charleston area, Irene’s effects on Folly Beach were striking. The most visible effect was in the dunes, but the beach was also eroded by the elevated water levels and large waves associated with the hurricane.
Prior to Irene, the Charleston District had completed a limited re-evaluation report (LRR) that indicated Folly Beach had reached the “trigger point” for the next renourishment cycle. Completion and approval of this report made the District eligible for the fiscal year 2013 (FY13) budget to request plans and specifications and construction funds.
Until the President’s budget is released in February, the District does not know what funds, if any, will be received. The estimate in the LRR for the next renourishment is approximately $18 million total, with $15.3 million in federal funding and $2.7 million from the sponsor, the City of Folly Beach. This estimate was based on awarding the next renourishment contract in FY13.
On August 25th, before Irene came ashore, the District completed a pre-storm survey of Folly Beach, surveying a sampling of cross sections along the beach. After Irene passed by, the District then completed a post-storm survey of the same sample of cross sections. This information was used to develop a preliminary estimate of the amount of sand lost due to Irene. The middle portion of Folly Beach fared better than the ends of the island, though it did experience erosion and reworking of the sand on the beach. The area near the county park, the “washout area” and the northern tip of the project were the hardest hit as these areas were already experiencing significant erosion prior to Irene. The county park had experienced damage to their concessions area and underneath the boardwalk, among other areas.
Based on preliminary estimates, it appears that approximately 300,000-350,000 cubic yards of sand were lost solely as a result of Irene. The Corps does not, however, estimate the damage done to any structures as a result of the storm as this is a local or state government responsibility.
“We find ourselves in a unique circumstance after Hurricane Irene since South Carolina as a whole sustained very little damage and thus did not have a disaster or emergency declaration,” said Lisa Metheney, assistant chief of programs and project management. “While we don’t know if there will be funding in the President’s FY13 budget, we are hopeful we will receive funds to rehabilitate the beach as we have in the past.”
As it does with all sponsors of coastal storm damage reduction projects, the District coordinated with the City of Folly Beach both before and after the storm. As Mother Nature and man continue to shape the shoreline of Folly Beach, the City and the District will continue to communicate regarding the condition of the project and the potential for future renourishment activities.