FOLLY BEACH — Erosion from the Irma storm surge is worse than Hurricane Matthew, and officials worry that more could be on the way because of Hurricane Jose.
Beach sand was lost across the island, properties and streets in low-lying areas flooded and big piles of vegetative debris were left on the road to the mainland.
Parts of what used to be public access wooden stairs to the beach could be seen in decimated dunes. Timbers used to battle erosion were tossed ashore and sand was blown onto the road at the east end of the island where surfers gather.
But it could have been much worse. Folly was spared the sort of destruction Irma inflicted on Florida and the Caribbean, said Mayor Tim Goodwin.
"We've got a real mess. They've got a real disaster," he said.
The state of things at Folly on Tuesday was no picnic, although surfers were out and parents and kids enjoyed the beach on a crystal blue day. The scope of the erosion was most apparent next to the pier where children played on a sandy cliff that Irma's storm surge carved out of a big dune on Monday.
Overall, things were much improved on the first day after Irma. Much of the street flooding had receded, power was restored and the road to the mainland was back in service after being cleared of massive piles of vegetative debris the storm washed up.
However, standing water remained at many properties in low-lying areas from the beachfront to the back streets near the Folly River. And there was the possibility that more water and erosion was on the way.
"This is pretty serious. It looks like the erosion is substantial, shocking," said City Administrator Spencer Wetmore.
She worried about what Jose had in store for the island. Current forecast models keep the hurricane at sea, but it could send more wind and waves this way.
On the west end of the island, homeowner Melanie Perry was recovering from nearly 2 feet of flooding that rendered the downstairs of her house useless for now.
"It's trashed. It's completely trashed," she said.
The septic tank backed up, which means salvaged items will have to be sterilized. A couch and some other furniture stacked at the roadside outside the home would not be used again, she said.
Storm debris could be seen in dunes at Folly county park and at the other end of the island next to Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve where the surge destroyed a public beach access walkway.
Tuesday was a first step toward recovery from the damage.
"We'll rebuild," Wetmore said.
The Army Corps of Engineers this week will assess the condition of the beach, Goodwin said.
The flooding was the worst on the island since Hurricane Hugo, he said, but it could have been much worse.
"It's easier to clean up a mess than a disaster," he said.
Surfers heading to ocean at Folly Beach Washout pic.twitter.com/ga5lx9jY7s— Prentiss Findlay (@PrentissFindlay) September 12, 2017
Irma storm surge sand covers road at Folly Washout pic.twitter.com/QK5pACdrCG— Prentiss Findlay (@PrentissFindlay) September 12, 2017