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Flood Resilience Event Takes a Different Route at Folly Beach

Jul 11, 2019

Talking about sea-level rise and tidal flooding might seem an odd fit for a children’s-oriented event, but risk communicators need to reach out to varied audiences.

That’s why a group from S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments , the Lowcountry Hazards Center , and the College of Charleston’s Office of Sustainability set up tables at the Folly Beach Family Fun Night on July 9.

Many of the same groups were involved at community events over the past year in North Charleston and Mount Pleasant. Those events, however, focused entirely on spreading the word about flood resilience; at this event, the group shared space at Folly River Park with weekly Family Fun Night features like face-painters, hula hoops, and a photo booth.

The unusual setting seemed appropriate for the City of Folly Beach , a much smaller community than North Charleston or Mount Pleasant. The Consortium has been working with Folly Beach on a number of flood resilience issues, many of which have been discussed at city council and planning commission meetings.

“We were trying to reach people who don’t come to meetings,” said Sarah Watson, the Consortium’s coastal climate and resilience specialist. “At an event like this, the people are already there. You just bring them over and help them connect.”

An educator explains a poster about tides to young children at the Folly Beach event. Photo by Susan Lovelace, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium.

One of the goals was to ground-truth flood mapping tools created by Norm Levine, director of the Lowcountry Hazards Center, which is housed at the College of Charleston. The mapping effort is funded by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regional coastal resilience grant obtained through the Consortium on behalf of the Charleston Resilience Network.

Parents and grandparents who stopped by the tables at Folly Beach compared the flood map information with actual flooding from recent events on their property. They also participated in a survey on flood resilience and talked with town and county officials about flooding issues.

Meanwhile, the children who accompanied them were kept busy with activities designed to enlighten but not frighten. They drew pictures of creatures that live in and out of the water at the ocean’s edge, checked out how water flowed under and around a Lego building, and learned how the moon causes King Tides that often lead to temporary road flooding on Folly Beach.

Fewer people stopped at the tables at Folly Beach than had at the flood-focused events in North Charleston and Mount Pleasant, but Watson said those who took the time seemed particularly engaged, which made the different form of outreach worthwhile.