Public apps to help DHEC assess hazards

Astronomical high tides can flood Charleston area streets. S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control managers want the public's help assessing the damage.

Tides in the Lowcountry sometimes flood the streets. Surf from a hurricane offshore can wreck an otherwise undisturbed beach.

That's where you come in. State coastal managers looking to better predict, handle and protect against the sea have launched two apps to get the public's perspective on just how much damage is done in specific locations.

King Tide and Storm Witness allow people to upload photographs and other information that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control can use to decide actions from crisis response to management policies. The apps work from smart phones or computers.

They are among any number of new social media feeds to engage people and improve data from hurricanes and other serious weather events.

Just one of the others is iCoast, a U.S. Geological Survey compilation of before-and-after aerial imagery that can show the damage a storm does to a coastline. It's a crowdsourcing app that asks coastal residents to analyze and report on the changes.

The state apps have a broader purpose. Astronomical high tides occur regularly in the Lowcountry, but which ones cause property damage and street flooding can depend on a number of factors. King tides are tides 6.6 feet or more, at least a foot above the usual tidal range. Photos and information from specific spots "can help us determine how frequent are non-storm related tidal extremes affecting property, infrastructure and traffic along the coast," said Dan Burger, DHEC Coastal Services Division director. That could mean better predicting them to the point of knowing "whether we're seeing an increase in the number of extreme events that we need to prepare for," he said.

Storm Witness is designed to act as a near real time reporting mechanism to assess storm impacts and inform the public, Burger said. The site provides a menu of options that allows users to characterize the damage.

To sign up or for more information about new S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control coastal damage reporting apps, go to

To access iCoast go to

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.