Hurricane Matthew was originally forecast to just give a glancing blow to the NC shoreline above Little River, SC. Unfortunately, he decided to hug the coast just long enough before making a sharp right turn and out to sea. The resulting damage in some places was just short of historic. Up and down the shoreline of each of the barrier islands, high tide pushed itself much closer to all the beachfront homes carving away at the dunes. While there was minimal property damage to homes on most of the islands, the dune structure was ravaged
Sunset Beach was not spared from such dune damage; it may actually have suffered the most. Prior to Matthew, there were 2 small breaks in the dunes, one of which the Bird Island Stewards used as an entry point into Bird Island so that we could visually explain the various stages of the maritime forest that exists behind the dunes on Bird Island. Because Sunset Beach does accrete sand, we had actually started witnessing those breaks starting to ‘heal’ with a new dune beginning to develop at the opening. That healing process was abruptly terminated and both of these breaks were widened significantly. Moreover, as many as 6 or 8 new breaks were formed all along the shoreline on Bird Island….some of them as wide as 100 yards. These breaks laid bare access to Bird Island for future storms and high tides. Thousands of cubic yards of sand and uprooted grass were pushed into Bird Island.
Over the course of a week after Matthew, I was able to get out to the entire island to view and photograph the damage. To say that it was depressing would be the ultimate understatement. The point on the east end was pushed even farther inland, leveling dunes and leaving stubs of marshgrass behind. The tidal surge must have been so high on the west end that it not only covered the jetty, but pushed rocks off the the jetty farther inland. A 6-8 foot dune line on the island side of the jetty was virtually leveled. I witnessed debris from the tides well over a hundred yards inland.
I hope that the following photos will give you a better idea of the impact of Matthew on Sunset beach. There is a brief description of each photo that will display when you click on the thumbnail and view the photo full size. As always, feel free to share to your social network of choice. You can also send any photo to any email as an E-Card at no cost. Simply click on the ‘e-card’ link in the upper right hand corner of the full sized image.