Storm brings widespread beach erosion

High tides and gales churned waves earlier this week that carved away 10- to 30-foot sections of beach in some areas on Hilton Head Island.

At Tower Beach Club in Sea Pines, waves washed away part of dunes and sections of boardwalk.

Scott Liggett, town director of public projects and facilities, said the storm caused "intermediate to severe" erosion at Tower Beach, North Forest Beach, Palmetto Dunes and Port Royal Plantation.

"We had an event that affected a good chunk of the island," Liggett said. "The shoreline is continuing to retreat, and the storm contributed to that retreat."

More beach-eroding weather may be on the way.

The National Weather Service in Charleston is calling for showers and thunderstorms by mid-week.

"There's a good likelihood for more wind and rain, but we're too far out to say what the impacts will be for beaches," meteorologist Jon Jelsema said.

Beachgoers might notice some "scarping," which gives the upper part of the beach a steep shelf-like appearance. The scarp line will smooth over time, Liggett said.

"Oftentimes what catches people really by surprise is that there can be dramatic changes," he said. "But they're really nothing to be overly alarmed about."

There will also be times when sand accumulates.

"Some days you win and some days you loose," he said. "Obviously, these last couple of days, we've been losing."

The town has spent more than $40 million since 1990 to intermittently dump sand to stabilize five to six miles of shoreline. As a result, the dry-sand beach is about 200 feet wider than when the town started, Liggett said.

The next round of renourishment is scheduled for next month at Port Royal Plantation, where the storm also washed away sand.

About a million cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto a mile-long stretch. A groin also will be built to prevent sand from washing away and to allow it to accrue along the shore. The sand should be in place by January. The groin construction will be finished in spring, Liggett said.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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