Grand Strand beaches will take another pounding of king tides beginning Sunday that are predicted to deliver a two-foot higher surf and further scour fragile dunes already damaged by the recent historic storm.
Backhoes circled like beach Zambonis earlier this week in some North Myrtle Beach areas as the heavy-duty vehicles moved sand from low-tide stretches near the water to stabilize the dunes.
The ridges were sliced in half by the double whammy delivered just weeks ago, when more than 20 inches of rain on shore literally collided with the higher tide and the two forces of rushing water cut new paths through the knolls.
2 feet amount tides will rise next week
“We want to patch it up before the high tides, we don’t want high tides spilling through the gaps in the dunes onto Ocean Boulevard,” said Pat Dowling, North Myrtle Beach spokesman.
“Hopefully there won’t be high waves and a lot of wind associated with the next tide, but we will probably have to be back out there when that is over with to do more patching,” Dowling said.
King tides occur only a few times a year, sweeping the ocean farther ashore to cause street flooding in low-lying areas and the rapid erosion of dunes.
I don’t trust that ocean, it doesn’t know where it belongs.”
Janice Caruso, owner of the Cabana Mart
Officials are keeping a close watch on weather forecasts for extenuating conditions that could strengthen this king tide’s destructive force, such as rain and strong winds.
The National Weather Service is predicting the higher tides through Friday, with moderate winds ranging from 5 to 15 miles per hour. Forecasters say the good news is that no rain is expected until late Wednesday through Thursday when the king tides will begin to recede. The normal high tides will increase from five-and-a-half feet to nearly seven feet by Tuesday, before receding to normal tide lines by weeks-end.
The expanse of glimmering white sand on Pawleys Island still stretches broadly from private beach homes to the water during low tide, appearing untouched by the recent storm.
But the dunes tell a different story.
The sandy ridges were shaved back 6 to 18 feet when the king tide combined with the passing of Hurricane Joaquin along the Eastern seaboard. Instead of seven foot king tides, the storm added another two feet of crashing waves that clawed the dunes back out to sea or shoved it onto the roads.
The swells bulldozed sand from beneath beach staircases that cascade from the dunes all along the island, leaving jagged scars of erosion and a vulnerable dune system.
About two feet of sand across the beach expanse was washed away, so a normal high tide now covers 80 percent of the shore -- that amounts to three miles of an island that stretches three-and-a-half miles, said Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis, Jr.
“The fear is that this next king tide will add to the damage already done,” Otis said. “It won’t be as dramatic like it was during the last king tide, but it’s going to hit these dunes.
“It won’t be pretty,” Otis said.
Flooding is expected to cover some roads next week on the island, but Otis said it won’t be the nearly one foot of water that poured over the dunes and walls earlier this month.
“We will probably have to close the causeways during high tide next week. We don’t want people driving through when they can’t see the road, and we’ve had people drive off the road,” Otis said.
“If you can’t see the white line, it’s dangerous,” Otis said.
A half-dozen beach accesses in Georgetown County are still closed for repairs to walkways and stairs that erosion separated from the dunes. The closures are at Garden City Beach access number 44 and Litchfield Beach access numbers 61 through 66.
So long as the forecast for moderate winds and low rainfall holds, residents in Garden City Beach should expect some moderate street flooding, said Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for Horry County.
Officials are still calculating the damage done to the 14 miles of beaches in the county’s jurisdiction. Bourcier said next week’s tide could further erode the dunes, “but it definitely won’t be like the storm we had.”
Garden City Beach residents should also expect to see barricades on the roads when flooding occurs and Bourcier urged motorists to slow down when driving through the area.
“A lot of times those wakes from vehicles can cause property damage, even in tidal issues like this,” Bourcier said. “During the last high tide, some people received damage because of people going through so fast causing wakes to go into buildings and causing additional damage.”
Myrtle Beach “recovered remarkably well” from the storm, said city spokesman Mark Kruea. Beyond the further loss of sand, the high tides aren’t expected to create additional damage.
“Mother Nature has been very busy, but the sand has built back up and the beach is in fairly decent shape,” Kruea said.
“We’ll make sure the blue barrels won’t get washed away, holding back the ocean is the function of the dunes – that’s why the dunes are there and we protect them,” Kruea said.
Cherry Grove and Windy Hill in North Myrtle Beach are dealing with some of the same erosion issues faced by Pawleys Island -- only a thin strip of beach remains during normal high tides.
The last king tides combined with the strong surf and wind from Joaquin to cover the storm water drainage outflows along the beaches and blocked the normal escape route for heavy rain runoff on shore.
If you’re going to stay here, you have to accept it could all be gone. It’s all about having the right attitude – you either rebuild, or you don’t.
Janice Caruso, owner of the Cabana Mart
It was the record rainfall looking for a path to the sea that caused the most damage, flooding streets and some businesses along the Grand Strand.
Janice Caruso, owner of the Cabana Mart on South Ocean Boulevard between 15th and 16th avenues South in North Myrtle Beach, has lived in the area for more than 30 years and grown accustomed to the unpredictable nature of her neighbor across the street.
“I don’t trust that ocean, it doesn’t know where it belongs,” Caruso said. “But if we get water in here, we’ll just push it back out.”
The owner’s son made sure the small store was prepared for the last king tide, moving items onto plastic crates.
Caruso’s not overly concerned about the coming king tide. Living by the sea, she says, produces a determined mindset.
“If you’re going to stay here, you have to accept it could all be gone. It’s all about having the right attitude – you either rebuild, or you don’t,” Caruso said.