SURFSIDE BEACH, SC – The luxury of living along the coast of the Southeast has its benefits, but after a hurricane passes through, sometimes damage can linger longer than anyone would ever want.
Hurricane Matthew brought dangerous winds, and a storm surge of more than six feet to beaches from Florida into North Carolina in 2016.
Piers and other structures along the coast experienced the brunt of the storm.
The Category 2 hurricane caused significant damage to the mostly wooden structures in both Surfside Beach, S.C. and Jacksonville Beach, Florida, which is still apparent today.
Officials in South Carolina said the storm destroyed around 50 percent of their beach pier, scattering debris for miles.
And in Florida, news stations covered the storm’s battering waves as it ripped away planks of the 1,300-foot fishing and recreational structure.
Surfside Beach considered the loss to be "a devastating blow" to the coastal community, but despite the destruction, there is light at the end of the tunnel for both of the beach structures.
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Massive cranes and crews have been busy over the last several years, removing the unusable structures and planting new supports.
The construction efforts could mean that new piers are in place and open to the public before another storm threatens.
The massive reconstruction projects don’t come cheap.
Surfside Beach is expected to spend more than $18 million, and Jacksonville’s total could reach more than $11 million.
In both cities, Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to pick up the bulk of the bills.
With the hefty price tags come added assurances that the attractions will be able to survive significant storms.
"The new pier has been engineered and modeled to withstand most tropical events, as well as seismic occurrences. The pier is about 10 feet higher, and has drop in deck sections which are designed to blow out while leaving the superstructure intact," said Robert Blomquist, a spokesperson for Surfside Beach. "The ocean piles will be round steel encased in concrete. The superstructure will be concrete, and the decking will be wood pre-fabricated panels which will be placed in the concrete tracks."
Similar construction efforts were used in Jacksonville Beach, and officials said they even raised parts of the pier eight feet to avoid destruction during future hurricanes.
There still remains some fluidity as to when the grand reopening of piers will happen.
Like many projects, supply chain issues and normal delays have caused both cities to adjust when the structures once again reopen for fishing, relaxing and other beachside activities.
According to Surfside Beach’s public works director, the town is aiming to open its pier during the first quarter of 2023.
Beachgoers at Jacksonville Beach may be luckier; officials are working to reopen its new pier by the end of the summer.
Both coastal communities have been fortunate over the last several years and have escaped Matthew-like damage during the piers’ reconstruction efforts.
But with the expected busy hurricane season underway, coastal communities from Texas to Maine could face potential tropical trouble over the next several months, which could put the new structures to the test, especially if a significant cyclone comes close to the Southeast.
Colorado State University experts expect an additional 19 named storms to form during the season, with as many as ten becoming hurricanes.