FOLLY BEACH -- Hurricane Earl's waves left little damage behind, but it's clear 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 report.
There's still 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, or 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," Matt Watson, maintenance supervisor at the park, said 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 today were still assessing the amount of sand that was lost over the past few days, fully aware this was only the first storm ahead of a five-week concentration of gales 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 Corps of Engineer beach renourishment money.
Mayor Tim Goodwin said today 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 Saturday'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 Category 1 storm as it churned 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 the structure weathered the storm without a scratch, despite taking a hit from a wayward, 12-foot sailboat Thursday 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 today.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551, or firstname.lastname@example.org.