Folly ready for holiday, minus some parking

Matt Watson (right) and Tanner Smith collected debris Friday left by heavy surf from Hurricane Earl, which damaged a walkover at Folly Beach County Park.

FOLLY BEACH -- Hurricane Earl's waves left little damage behind, but it's clear that the county park at the western edge is going to need some help.

Since Memorial Day, a string of heavy rains, high tides and Earl's turbulence have taken out more than 125 parking spaces, officials reported.

There still are more than 225 spaces left, but another concern as the island awaits the next storm is that the narrowest point of the park's middle, its hour-glass "waist" point, is so vulnerable that it could easily be washed away or cut in two if a major storm rips through.

"We've lost 15 feet in the last two days," said Matt Watson, maintenance supervisor at the park, pointing toward the dunes as he collected loose wood planks and other debris. "It's amazing, but not in a good way."

Barricades have been set up, marking the dangerous parts of the parking area that are off limits.

On the rest of the Folly Island, officials Friday still were assessing the amount of sand that was lost over the past few days, fully aware that this was only the first hurricane ahead of a five-week concentration of storms expected to form in the Atlantic.

As a defense, city crews this week shot a series of "before and after" shots of the usual weak erosion points to use as a comparison for when it's time to request U.S. Army Corps of Engineer beach-renourishment money.

Mayor Tim Goodwin said Friday there are areas that appear to be much more exposed than they were at the start of the week.

"Every time you lose part of it, you're losing more protection," he said.

The beaches will be open for today's start of the Labor Day weekend, but there's another concern -- biting flies. With so much sea grass washed up on the sand by the storm, it presents more room to lay eggs, meaning new crops of flies could be on the prowl in no time.

Several bare-legged visitors to the beach have already reported taking hits.

Elsewhere around Charleston, little damage was felt from Earl, which stayed safely off shore and was downgraded to a tropical storm as it headed north to New England.

"Looking good on Sullivan's Island," said Andy Benke, town administrator, who said the only out-of-sorts he saw was some debris by the high-tide mark.

Back on Folly, at the pier officials report that the structure weathered the storm without a scratch, despite taking a hit Thursday from a wayward, 12-foot sailboat whose two-man crew tried but failed to get past the breakers. They were blown in distress into the pilings.

"We're fine," pier manager Kerry Hanson said Friday.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or