No matter how many high tech gadgets you have, much of life in the Lowcountry comes back to the weather. It’s usually pretty mild here with the occasional hurricane threat, but with so many bridges and low-lying roads linking us, we always have to be on alert. Not only that, but as many surf enthusiasts will tell you, anytime there is a storm brewing, there is the opportunity to catch a big wave or two.
The first place most surfers go for those waves is Folly Beach. When Hurricane Irene skirted by us at the end of August 2011, Charleston was unusually quiet — the threat of a major hurricane muffled tourist traffic, but Folly Beach was buzzing with die-hard surfers who had called in sick from work or taken a day off from school to enjoy the waves created by the storm. And although Charleston was not hit by the hurricane, those massive waves the storm brought caused some damage to Folly Beach, crunching boardwalks, taking away a lot of sand and requiring the closing of the Folly Beach County Park. Months after Irene, the park is still closed and sand is being hauled in to replenish the dunes that were washed away.
Today, another storm has been working its way into the Lowcountry, and the waves at Folly Beach are higher than normal — 10 to 15 feet! Even though the county park areas are closed, the Wash Out, Folly Beach’s main surfing spot is open if surfers can navigate waterlogged area roads and bridges to make it to the beach.
A higher-than-normal high tide will occur just before 8:00 tonight, and the combination of it and heavy rains can mean flooding. Live in the Lowcountry long enough and you learn which roads to avoid during high tide and heavy rain: Crosstown Road downtown, Center through Fourth Streets on Folly Beach and Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant. The closer to the ocean or Intracoastal Waterway you get, the worse the flooding is likely to be. The Charleston area has drainage systems in place to mitigate flooded roads, but these systems are often overwhelmed during heavy rains and high tide.
To be safe during flood conditions, keep an eye on local news outlets for any evacuation orders and traffic updates, stay away from flood waters, and if you come to a flooded street, do not try to drive through the water (even if it means you can’t make it out to Folly to catch those waves!). Doing so could stall your car and leave you stranded. Flood hazards are especially dangerous at night because it is difficult to assess the situation visually. Visit the American Red Cross website for more information on flood safety.