Only a tickle

Folly Beach surfers on Monday enjoy the waves stirred up by Tropical Storm Alberto, which spun far off the South Carolina coast over the weekend.

FOLLY BEACH — A kayak class is finishing up in the surf. A worker trims the hedges.

Except for the water stain where high tide slipped over another destroyed strand of the parking lot, Monday looked like just another day in eroded dunescape of the Charleston County park here.

The closed park, and most of Folly Beach, didn’t get torn up much more from a weekend of pummeling waves pushed up by astronomical high tides and Tropical Storm Alberto offshore. The shuttered park office is still poised on its pilings over the tidewash.

Two or three feet more of sand were lost at points on both ends of the island, said Eric Lutz, city building official. But it could have been a lot worse, he and others said.

Already the park on the island’s west end has lost its tip. High tides slip through the shred left of maritime forest and into the marsh behind, effectively cutting the park in two.

The roiling high tide surf also cut a new gully through the parking lot back to the marsh.

“Going to make an island of an island, I guess,” said a rueful Phil Macchia, Charleston County Park and Recreation operations director, as he looked it over. “I’m just glad it wasn’t any worse for us than it was.”

On the east end of Folly toward the Morris Island Lighthouse, two homes still stand on pilings in the beach wash. Other homes nearby have been bulwarked.

But the storm didn’t leave them much worse off either.

“The water came up pretty high, but no significant damage,” Lutz said. “It got everybody thinking about preparing for hurricane season a little earlier than normal, which is a good thing.”

Officials worry the next round of big storm swells could overwash the county park and begin to bring down those homes. Rounds of tropical storm waves last year gutted an already depleted, 7-year-old beach sand renourishment.

The federal government is under a 50-year contract to periodically renourish the entire 5-mile stretch of the island’s beach, after a 1992 study demonstrated that the continual erosion is exacerbated by the Charleston jetties.

The next renourishment is scheduled for 2013, but with tough economic times and spending disputes, only the money to plan it has been budgeted so far.

Local officials have been pressing for both federal and state funds to shore up the dunes. The popular tourist beach faces a potential loss of 300 public and private properties and $300 million in property value, they said. The county park alone drew some 100,000 visits per year.

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said the city is assessing new damage and will again ask Gov. Nikki Haley for a disaster declaration to potentially free up funds for beach renourishment.

The last try at that — following a recent storm — didn’t win a declaration.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.