FOLLY BEACH — Two tropical storms this season arrived in such quick succession that local officials may not even try to figure out how much sand Tropical Storm Michael blew away.
The city's renourishment project, ongoing since the spring, already had been extended after Hurricane Florence. That storm swept 200,000 cubic yards of sand off the beach in the midst of a project to pump material out of the Folly River and back onto the beach, particularly the city's vulnerable east end.
Before contractors had even finished the supplemental part of their work to build up the beach, Michael arrived as a fast-moving tropical storm.
City Administrator Spencer Wetmore said another survey of how much sand was swept away might not be needed because "the area (contractors had) been repairing from Florence is the same area that would have been impacted by Michael."
Meanwhile, beachgoers have posted photos on social media of groins uncovered by the storm and scarping, or erosion that creates small cliffs in the sand.
Scarping is largely expected after renourishment projects as the slope of the beach evens out to a natural equilibrium.
"If you’ve ever been here for a previous renourishment, it happened then, too. It’s not something new," Mayor Tim Goodwin said. "That phenomenon is not new, the people that’s seeing it are new."
Tropical systems can damage beach communities even if they don't come ashore, because storms churning in the ocean or landing nearby often suck sand off the beach and deposit it in sandbars. Folly Beach is particularly vulnerable to erosion because the jetties at the entrance to the Charleston Harbor disrupt a southerly flow of sand that might otherwise replenish its shoreline.
Because of that unique situation, Folly Beach is exempted from many of the beachfront regulations that apply in the rest of the state. But the city may soon enact its own strict regulations as officials mull beachfront setback rules that could help protect dunes and bar building on "super lots," or parcels of beachfront land that end up underwater between renourishment projects.
The city also may regulate some septic tanks under the beach.
Across the entire island, there's a proposal to raise the required height of new buildings from 1 to 2 feet above the minimum levels required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Officials including Goodwin met Monday with the city's attorney to iron out the details of the proposal; a slate of options will be discussed at a joint City Council and Planning Commission meeting on Oct. 29.
Zoning Administrator Aaron Pope said the new regulations could help Folly Beach residents get a break on their flood insurance.
"We just feel like it's generally best practice to acknowledge the general impacts of increased flooding," he said.
Meanwhile, the city recently entered an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to study the ongoing coastal protection work the Corps does in Folly, including renourishment. Goodwin said the study, the first of its kind in decades, will incorporate more recent information about severe storms and sea level rise.
"We’re going to go back and look at engineering and if there’s some other options, and actually spend some time looking at the future versus scrambling for the past," he said.