Protective sand barriers built on Edisto after Matthew were crucial during Irma

Edisto Beach Berms (WCIV)

First Hurricane Matthew, then Tropical Storm Irma. Edisto Beach has been pummeled by each of the two major storms to effect South Carolina in the last year.

But, Edisto Beach Mayor Jane Darby says every storm is a lesson, and the lesson from Irma is they’re doing something right.

One week ago, sand was blanketing the roads on Edisto Beach, making Palmetto Boulevard impassable.

That sand is now piled in front of many beachfront homes, after Department of Transportation crews worked for a week to clear the roads.

“You see sand in the road and you think ‘oh no’ but actually what happened was we didn’t have structural damage because the berms prevented that,” said Darby.

Darby says 120,000 cubic yards of beach were lost to Irma, 20,000 less than what was lost during Hurricane Matthew.

According to Darby, the town of Edisto Beach built after Matthew berms fortified with vegetation along the beachfront to help protect the island in case of another storm, and Darby says it proved to be a crucial safeguard when the sand dunes again were washed away by Irma.

Darby said sea oats planted last year to provide structure to the berms did not hold up, but older growth proved its worth.

“In areas where you have sea oats established, we have just got those sea oats out and they didn’t have time to take root,” said Darby. “In areas where you see that thick growth, they had none, totally no damage.”

Sharon Moore moved to Edisto in early 2016, she’s been welcomed by storms ever since. But for her, the risk is all a part of beach living.

“The beach is still here. God made sure we still had our beach,” said Moore. “You just have to know you have that chance to take. You learn how to prepare. We learned from Matthew how to prepare for Irma.”

Darby said rebuilding the berms is the town's top priority.

“We can overcome anything,” Darby said. “We love our town, it’s going to be here.”

Darby says the town has been able to recover enough sand that a renourishment project will not be necessary.

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