ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) – Coastal floods and nearly a week of historically high non-tropical tides are threatening Lowcountry beach communities, as erosion causes shorelines to recede.
To put it simply, erosion refers to the sand being washed away by high tides and powerful waves, diminishing the barrier between the ocean and the land.
Scott Harris works in the Department of Geology and Geosciences at the College of Charleston, where he has been studying erosion and its impacts on the Lowcountry for years.
“These excessively high tides that we have normally this time of year — they’re getting higher and higher every year — combined with the large waves coming in off the ocean are causing a lot of erosion right here along the beaches,” said Harris.
It’s an issue all over the coast, and long-term effects can be detrimental to beach communities.
“We get erosion from the front of the beach, erosion from behind the island compressing the island width,” said Harris.
South Carolina handles erosion with renourishment of quality sand, but it’s only a temporary fix, and experts say supplies are running low.
“Over the long term, that’s really going to become unsustainable,” said Harris. “In the long term, there’s no way we can handle it.”
After the tide cycle returns to a normal level, some of the sand will naturally be replaced, building the beach back up, though not restoring it to what it once was.