May 10 2011

Hurricane Bertha

Edisto has lucked out time and time again when it comes to hurricanes. Every year they form in the Atlantic and seem like they could be headed right for us, but for some reason, they either peter out or strike just north or just south of Edisto.

In the almost 30 years I’ve been coming to Edisto, I’ve been around for several hurricane watches, but only one time did my family actually have to deal with a hurricane.

It was July 1996 and it wasn’t even a direct hit, but it was close enough. We were staying in a house on front beach and a hurricane was forming off the eastern coast of Africa. It started off as a tropical wave that met up with an area of low pressure, which turned it into a tropical depression that gained enough speed and energy to become a category 4 hurricane.  By the time it made its way to the Eastern United States on July 12 after barreling over the Turks and Caicos with winds of more than 115 mph it had, thankfully for us, lost steam.208447_10100191879748367_12606092_49205041_7975605_n

The day Hurricane Bertha made landfall on Edisto Beach there was a voluntary evacuation taking place, which was good because a truck carrying nails had spilled on the one road out of town and would have made a hairy situation if the weather would have made a turn for the worse and hordes of people had to get out of Dodge. Luckily, the weather really wasn’t all that bad, considering.

Most of the day was overcast or raining, but the wind was significant. It was whipping the sand through the air so that stepping outside felt like being stung with thousands of tiny needles. The storm surge managed to push sand and surf onto several parts of Palmetto Boulevard and knocked out the windows in the storage rooms under several homes.

Before Bertha even made landfall, the current was incredibly strong. I can remember standing in the surf days before the storm and when the waves would crash and shrink back away from the coast they were strong enough to pull the sand out from under my feet.

While the waves that day weren’t actually all that huge, they were incredibly strong – and enticing as more than a few people went out to try their hand at surfing (which is never recommended as the rip currents are intense during a storm surge and make for a very dangerous situation).

The actual storm only lasted about six hours and then it went away, although the ocean remained strong for a few days afterwards. After it was over, many palm fronds were down, some homes had broken windows and missing shingles, but for the most part, Edisto was spared.

Other places weren’t so lucky. The storm surge of 8-10 feet destroyed several fishing piers, marinas, and boats. Close to 200 structures including homes were destroyed between Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Beach in North Carolina and 1,750 buildings were damaged. In addition, agricultural damage was incurred and many beaches suffered intense beach erosion.

The official hurricane season is June 1 to November 30. Hopefully this year Edisto remains a lucky spot that is free from any sort of tropical storms, depressions, or hurricanes.

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