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'Unexpectedly unremarkable' erosion at Hilton Head. But Dorian chewed other beaches

Sammy Fretwell and Avery G. Wilks, The State (Columbia, S.C.) on

Published in Weather News

COLUMBIA, S.C.--An eroded piece of beach on Hilton Head Island's southern tip showed what kind of energy Hurricane Dorian carried as it swept up the south Atlantic coast this week.

But fortunately for Hilton Head, that was about the only spot on the island's 12-mile shoreline that suffered the fury of Dorian.

Despite early indications that the island resort's beaches would be heavily eroded, virtually all of them held up during the hurricane, the town's chief engineer said.

Up the coast near Charleston and Myrtle Beach, some stretches of shoreline had erosion hot spots, although sand loss wasn't as large as expected, city officials said.

Scott Liggett, Hilton Head's director of public projects and facilities, said the storm caused surprisingly little beach erosion, even failing to wash away a row of dunes being cultivated to protect oceanfront property.

Before the storm, officials were worried about erosion -- and early indications were that the storm would pound away at the oceanfront. A day before the storm, the ocean was rising higher on beaches than usual.

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"We would classify the damage as falling in the minor category," Liggett said. "It was unexpectedly unremarkable to my mind. The beach appeared to do fairly well."

Beach erosion is a major concern for officials in oceanfront resorts like Hilton Head.

Most South Carolina beaches naturally erode, causing communities to spend millions of dollars on re-nourishment to keep beaches wide for tourists and to protect seaside homes and hotels. On Hilton Head, island leaders have spent about $32 million since 2016 on beach-widening projects in recent years.

Farther up the coast from Hilton Head Island, Dorian had more noticeable effects on seaside communities.

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