‘It’s real messy out there’: Here’s how Hilton Head beaches are looking during Michael

A look at the beach as Tropical Storm Michael brings 45+ mph. winds to Hilton Head

Wind gusts peaked at 46 mph. at the Hilton Head airport around 8 a.m. Thursday as Tropical Storm Michael blew through the Carolinas. Here's a look at Coligny Beach.
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Wind gusts peaked at 46 mph. at the Hilton Head airport around 8 a.m. Thursday as Tropical Storm Michael blew through the Carolinas. Here's a look at Coligny Beach.

Hilton Head beaches have taken a few beatings in the past two years from Irma and Matthew, but town officials say they’re “in great shape” to handle effects of another storm.

Tropical Storm Michael is expected to bring threatening winds and coastal flooding to Beaufort County Thursday, and the Town of Hilton Head Island’s director of public projects and facilities Scott Liggett said the sand dune systems on the beaches have been properly built up to act as barriers and “shock absorbers” for high winds and waves related to the storm.

He told the Island Packet in September that the island was “starting from a healthy beach standpoint” this hurricane season, and he stands by that claim ahead of Michael.

The waters off of Hilton Head have been deemed dangerous on Thursday, however.

In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Lt. Col. Neil Baxley, director of the Beaufort County’s emergency management division said three children were rescued from the water while boogie boarding around noon on Wednesday.

Lots of people were seen swimming on Hilton Head's Coligny Beach Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, as forecasters warned against swimming ahead of Hurricane Michael.

Mike Wagner, operations manager of Shore Beach Services, said “nobody should go in the water” on Thursday because of a very high potential for rip currents.

Lifeguards, who are normally on the beaches until Oct. 21, will not be in chairs today on the beach. Instead, beach patrol trucks will monitor the area.

“It’s real messy out there,” Wagner said of the rip currents. “You could be in knee-deep water and if you got knocked over you could get sucked right out.”

Liggett said he walked the beach Wednesday evening to assess the beach dune systems ahead of the storm.

“[I] did not see anything that gave me storm damage concern,” Liggett said of the barrier system.

After Hurricane Matthew hit the island in 2016, the town invested $20.7 million in a beach renourishment project that built up beaches eroded by the storm. The project also added plants and 37,000 feet of sand dune fencing to help keep them in place.

The dune system on Hilton Head Island's south beaches was damaged by Hurricane Matthew last October. Here's what the beaches looked like two days after Tropical Storm Irma tore through the area on September 11, 2017.

But some homeowners in Sea Pines took erosion control even further.

After Hurricane Matthew washed out parts of their property, a group of residents on Piping Plover Road spent around $750,000 constructing a seawall designed to keep stormwater far from their inground pools and houses.

Neighbors have expressed concern that the seawall, which was completed in September, will divert water into their properties — making flooding worse.

After Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Irma twice left their beachfront homes on the edge of the ocean, these five Sea Pines homeowners banded together to build a seawall in front of their houses.

The south end benefits from the same types of dune systems that the town has in place along the rest of the beach. Liggett said he hopes “natural recovery” is quick after the storm.

Michael is expected to pass through Beaufort County on Thursday.

Want a live look at Hilton Head Beaches? Check out the beach web cameras here.