ContactSite MapSearchNews
Inside Sea GrantResearchExtensionEducationFundingProductsEvents

SC Sea Grant Consortium
287 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29401
p: 843.953.2078
f: 843.953.2080
FY13-14 – Hazard Resilient Coastal Communities


Community Plans for Optimum Management of a Migratory Swash
PI: Michael Slattery, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

Inlets and swashes (small inlets not connected to major rivers or streams) create particularly dynamic environments along beaches that can prove hazardous to beach communities, due in large part to local erosion. In one case, over the last ten years, Myrtle Beach has spent $500,000 on repositioning Singleton Swash as it has threatened a beachfront community. Research initiated in 2008 at Coastal Carolina University and funded by Horry County established a beach camera monitoring system that tracks daily swash migration. 

RESPONSE: In order to facilitate development of a more robust, comprehensive management plan for Singleton Swash, the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium (SCSGC) met with Horry County engineers to determine optimum methods for managing the swash. As a result, the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium’s coastal processes extension specialist engaged an undergraduate student to examine 5 years of imagery to map historical swash migration and correlate migration patterns that became hazardous to the local community with accompanying wave conditions. A web-accessible camera was installed to provide continuous observation.

RESULTS: After developing a more robust data set of analyzed images and ocean conditions to assess the migration patterns of Singleton Swash, the extension specialist presented the results to Horry County planners for their use in determining a long-term management plan. While the project presented a strong starting point, more detailed information is required to determine the best, long-term management strategy. A master’s student project was developed with a student at Coastal Carolina University to produce a more definitive 3-D picture of the swash’s migratory trends using high accuracy surveying techniques. This will expand the understanding of sediment transport, channel migration, and water quality changes in the swash that could be affected depending on the final management strategy chosen.

RECAP: To provide the community of Myrtle Beach better data for improved management of a migratory swash which periodically threatens adjacent communities, the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and Coastal Carolina University analyzed existing data sets, provided preliminary results to the community and initiated additional data collection to support future management decisions. 

After Training, South Carolina State Park Rangers Install Rip Current Signs to Inform and Protect Swimmers at Popular Beach Park
PI: Michael Slattery, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

RELEVANCE: Rip currents represent a very real threat to the ocean-going public along the South Carolina coast. The Carolinas (North and South) have collectively seen 101 deaths since the turn of the century that can be traced to rip currents. Park rangers serve as key resources of information for the visiting public on a day-to-day basis at state parks; prior work at Hunting Island State Park revealed the need for a park ranger training program through which rangers could be provided information on rip currents and guidance on how to interact with the public regarding the rip current threat. Like every beach, rip currents pose a direct threat to visitors to Hunting Island Beach State Park, with 6 deaths since 2010 and another 3 rescues. There is a state-wide extension initiative to partner with the state parks system in addressing rip current safety.  
RESPONSE: The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium (SCSGC) coastal processes extension specialist worked with 8 of the park’s interpretive ranger staff at Hunting Island Beach State Park (and leaving resources for the ranger’s unable to attend) to create a rip current training seminar targeted specifically at how ranger staff can effectively convey rip current information to their visitors on a daily basis. The purpose was to arm the rangers with information they could use in creating their own training for park visitors and to answer questions about rip currents posed by visitors. During that visit, the SCSGC extension specialist also provided rip current signage for each of the 12 beach access points located along the park’s beach. 

RESULTS: Park rangers posted rip current signs at 12 beach access points throughout Hunting Island Beach State Park and were trained in the coastal processes associated with rip currents. Plans have been developed to expand rip current programming at other S.C. State Parks in the Spring of 2014. 

RECAP: Eight park rangers received rip current training from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium in identification of rip currents and guidance on how to talk with visitors regarding rip currents. The Consortium provided rip current signs which the rangers installed at all beach access locations.

South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium Trains Park Visitors in the Identification of Rip Currents
PI: Michael Slattery, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

The most dangerous hazard for beachgoers worldwide is rip currents. There were 293 rip current attributed deaths from 1994-2009 in the Southeast US. Not only is this hazard the number one cause of death for beach visitors (around 100 deaths annually in the US alone), it is also accounts for 80% of rescues from lifeguards. Specifically, Hunting Island Beach State Park is the number one most visited state park in South Carolina. Like every beach, rip currents pose a direct threat to visitors to Hunting Island Beach State Park, with 6 deaths and another 3 rescues since 2010. There is a state-wide extension initiative to partner with the state parks system in addressing rip current safety. 

RESPONSE: As the start of a long-term process to educate state park and beach front staff as well as provide information directly to beachgoers, the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium worked with the interpretive ranger staff at Hunting Island to organize a rip current seminar for park visitors. The seminar focused on rip current identification and survival through an interactive presentation and distribution of rip current educational materials. 

RESULTS: Thirty-six children and adults attended the rip current seminar. Most attendees were aware of how to escape a rip current, but informal surveys showed that less than 5% could identify a rip current. Less than 10% knew about rip current feeder channels and 0% knew about beach formations that could indicate rip current presence. Many of the attendees believed that people drowned in rip currents due to being pulled under water (~35%). The seminar was created to respond to the audience on hand and so shortcomings in knowledge for the audience were specifically addressed during the interactive seminar. As a result of the seminar’s success the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium was able to begin a ranger-focused training regarding rip current safety.

RECAP: The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium utilized State Park resources to extend rip current awareness to 36 visitors at the most heavily visited, coastal park in South Carolina. This seminar led to the programmatic development of a rip current outreach/training cooperative with the South Carolina State Parks System.  

Horry County, S.C.  Visitors learn about Rip Currents at the Grand Strand’s Second Annual Stormfest
PI: Michael Slattery, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium   

RELEVANCE: Despite great strides forward in rip current awareness over the past decade, the continued loss of life indicates a need to take a more proactive approach to reaching out to the coastal community regarding rip current safety. Since 2000 there have been 101 rip current-attributed drownings in North and South Carolina. Previous assessments found that 95% of children and 80% of adults knew to swim parallel to the shore when caught in a rip current, but had very little additional knowledge regarding the rip current threat. There was a need to address how beachgoers can identify a rip current to avoid being caught in one. 

RESPONSE: South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium (SCSGC) and Coastal Carolina University developed and staffed an informational kiosk at the second annual Stormfest in the Grand Strand region of South Carolina. The Consortium coastal processes extension specialist developed and used visual aids to teach visitors to spot conditions that may indicate the presence of a rip current. The kiosk included poster displays, rip current signs, magnets and informational pamphlets.

RESULTS: At least 400 people received information and a short training on spotting and avoiding rip currents at Stormfest in Horry County, SC, which includes the city of Myrtle Beach. Other visitors among the 3,500 festival attendees had the opportunity to view the displayed materials while touring Stormfest.

RECAP: Over 400 attendees of Stormfest in Horry County, including Myrtle Beach, received information and training to increase their awareness of rip currents and provide the knowledge that should decrease their risk of being caught in rip current. 

Participatory Model Development to Support Climate Vulnerability Action Plan
Partners: Social and Environmental Institute

PI: Elizabeth Fly, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

RELEVANCE: Beaufort County, South Carolina, located along the southern coast of the state, has more than 50% of its population living in FEMA-designated flood zones. As the population of this county grows rapidly, more people will become exposed to flood hazards and the effects of climate change. When updating its Comprehensive Plan in 2012, Beaufort County recognized flooding and sea level rise as threats to low-lying areas and that the impacts of these threats should be considered in future land use planning. Moving forward to incorporate these threats into planning has been a challenge, though, due to the wide range of future climate and sea level rise scenarios.

RESPONSE: The Beaufort County Planning Department recognized the need to increase its resilience to a variety of climatic conditions rather than planning for specific actions in anticipation of specific projections. They partnered with the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and the Social and Environmental Research Institute and successfully competed for a $99,778 grant from the National Sea Grant Office’s Coastal Community Climate Adaptation Initiative (CCCAI). The CCCAI grant supported building Beaufort County’s resilience to climate change by using two participatory modeling tools: Vulnerability and Consequences Adaptation Planning Scenarios (VCAPS) and System Dynamics (SD) modeling.

RESULT: After an initial scoping phase for the project, including a preliminary assessment of current county plans and ordinances and targeted interviews with 15 people to determine climate-related concerns, the S.C. Sea Grant Climate Extension Specialist led two VCAPS workshops in August 2013. These workshops consisted of 18 people, mainly county staff and decision-makers, working together to diagram the impacts of potential climate stressors on county management issues and the consequences these impacts might have. During the first session, the group explored the impact of changing rainfall and development to storm water management and examined sea level rise impacts and responses during the second session. They discussed how periodic flooding or permanent inundation may denigrate ecosystems, threaten cultural livelihoods, damage public infrastructure, reduce property values, and increase demand on government services. The group discussed the need for further data, changes to the built environment, and a legal disclosure to purchasers of risky property. Following the workshop, the team at SCSGC and SERI developed a report summarizing the group’s discussion and highlighted next steps. The results of the VCAPS process will feed into the second set of workshops, where participants will use SD modeling and GIS maps to evaluate tradeoffs among potential actions. These workshops will take place in spring of 2014 and will result in specific recommendations for actions Beaufort County can take to increase its resilience to sea level rise and climate change impacts. Once the final recommendations have been developed, the team will hold a public charrette to inform the wider community.

RECAP: The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, along with partners in the Social and Environmental Research Institute, Carolina Integrated Sciences and Assessments, and Beaufort County, created a model of the impacts and responses to local climate stressors in order to develop a county-wide plan for prioritized action to reduce vulnerability to climate impacts such as sea level rise.

Local Community Group Assisted as They Consider Risk and Plan for Resilience in McClellanville, SC
PI: Elizabeth Fly, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

RELEVANCE: The historic town of McClellanville, SC, faces several climate-related hazards, including flooding risks and stormwater runoff problems due to its low elevation and flat topography. These hazards will only be exacerbated by future sea level rise. The Kitchen Table Climate Study Group of McClellanville (KTCSG) is a community group interested in encouraging adaptation to climate change in its small fishing town. The group met regularly with local experts to better understand the risk from climate change and variability to the social and economic interests of their community. The KTCSG decided that they needed to understand local perceptions of climate as an environmental stressor in order to craft outreach messages for the community so that decision-makers could then address adaptation within the context of local concerns.

RESPONSE: The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium (SCSGC) and its partners, the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments, the Social and Environmental Research Institute, and Oregon Sea Grant assisted local decision-makers in the Town of McClellanville with exploring the impacts of climate variability and change in the environment and in the social and economic activities of the community. They were also interested in the public perceptions of climate change. The team, along with the KTCSG, hosted a facilitated discussion process and conducted interviews with local citizens.

RESULTS: Building on project activities in 2011 and 2012, this past year the SCSGC climate extension specialist and partners from CISA and SERI transcribed and analyzed the interviews and disseminated results at a McClellanville town hall meeting. Interviewees indicated the forest and marshes surrounding area are very important to the town’s identity, as are opportunities for fishing. The changes most often observed by McClellanville residents involved pressures from development, but participants also cited changes in water quality and beach erosion. Only three of twelve respondents indicated that climate is changing and humans are the main cause; others expressed belief that changes are primarily natural or did not know what could be causing changes. Over half of the twelve cited public apathy as a significant barrier to adapting to climate change. As a result of the project three informational panels were developed and displayed in Town Hall that provide information on local climate hazards, future projections of sea level rise, and local adaptation options.

RECAP: The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium  and its partners coordinated with a citizen’s group in McClellanville, SC, to understand the town’s perceptions of climate change and to develop local context-focused educational panels displayed in the town hall, that provide local climate hazards information and adaptation options.

Observational and Modeling Studies Benefit Management and Selection of Borrow Sites for Beach Nourishment in South Carolina   
PI: Kehui Xu, Coastal Carolina University

RELEVANCE: Beaches are common sedimentary environments along the South Carolina coasts. The condition and stability of these beaches form an integral part of South Carolina’s economy, primarily by providing support for local tourism and infrastructure protection during storm events. South Carolina has adopted beach nourishment as the predominant strategy for addressing adverse effects of coastal erosion to its beaches. Efficient and low-impact use of coastal sand resources is important to the sustainability of future nourishment programs state-wide, as well as to the management of sediment resources regionally. Indeed, few studies have been done for reliably predicting borrow pit infill rates and sediment composition based on expected borrow area placement and design.

RESPONSE: Sea Grant researchers at Coastal Carolina University, in partnership with a private sector firm Olsen and Associates, collected hydrodynamic and sediment transport data within the bottom boundary layer at three sites near the Hilton Head Island coast and used these data to establish, calibrate and validate hydrodynamic and sediment transport models to study borrow area infilling processes following dredging.

RESULTS: Sediment analyses indicate that the seabeds of most ebb tidal deltas are composed mainly of well-sorted sand. Dredging impacts are mainly on grain size. Initial measurements of surficial sediment at the borrow site showed it was finer and had lower organic content than pre-dredging. The site had restored to pre-dredging levels within six months post-dredge. Several sediment transport models have been run and are being validated, and meteorological and oceanographic data have been compiled and pre-processed for inclusion in the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) model, which continues to be refined.

RECAP: An understanding of how borrow pits, which are created as the result of dredging for beach nourishment, infill based on hydrodynamic and sediment transport data and continued Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) enhancement will inform the decision-making processes of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and coastal communities state-wide.

Last updated: 9/28/2015 11:35:28 AM
FY13-14 – Hazard Resilient Coastal Communities


Page Tools Print this page
E-mail this page
Bookmark this page

Coastal Science Serving South Carolina
Copyright © 2001-2018 South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium
Turbulent Flow Image Courtesy of Prof. Haris J. Catrakis, University of California, Irvine
Privacy & Accessibility