Soon after Hurricane Fran roared through North Carolina, investigators with Duke University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines were already surveying storm damage by air and on foot at battered developed beach areas like Topsail Island and Figure Eight Island.
The Duke researchers were eager to see how well the "risk maps" they had developed in advance reflected reality. Those maps are intended to help perspective home buyers find the safest places to live or vacation on such vulnerable barrier islands.
Orrin Pilkey, the director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, said the maps of affected areas of North Carolina generally proved to be accurate, except for parts of Topsail Island. "Some of the areas we said were 'moderate' risk should have been 'high' or 'extreme' risk on Topsail," he said in an interview.
Storm tides and surf destroyed a protective sand dune above the island's beachfront more quickly than anticipated, he explained. "Barrier islands are dynamic, and the risk classification of a homesite will vary from one time to another depending on things like the presence of a dune."
Pilkey, a professor at Duke's geology department and Nicholas School of the Environment, is a nationally known authority on the hazards of building on beaches. On Oct. 16-17, he and David Bush, an assistant geology professor at the State University of West Georgia, will discuss those hazards during a media briefing and subsequent tour in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Interested media are reminded that the cutoff date for special reservations at the briefing site, the Holiday Inn-Oceanfront in downtown Myrtle Beach, is Sept. 17. A limited number of rooms will be available for Wednesday, Oct. 16 -- at $69.00 (cityview) and $79.00 (oceanfront) -- by calling 1-800-845-0313 and asking about "Pilkey tour" accommodations.
A classic example of a heavily developed shoreline vulnerable to hurricanes like Fran, the Myrtle Beach area was chosen to illustrate themes in two new books and a video -- all of which will be provided to reporters.
The video, "Living on the Edge," and one of the books, Living by the Rules of the Sea, provide tips on building sites to avoid near beaches, construction techniques most likely to minimize storm damage, and where to find the best sources of information about flood insurance, evacuation routes and storm risk.
The second book, Living with the South Carolina Coast, is a revised edition of an earlier work substantially updated with new information, such as block-by-block risk maps of all South Carolina shoreline communities.
In addition, reporters will receive risk maps of all North Carolina barrier islands.
The briefing will begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Holiday Inn-Oceanfront at 415 South Ocean Blvd. On Oct. 17, a morning tour -- guided by Pilkey, Bush and other experts -- will point out better and worse places for building locations along about 25 miles of the Grand Strand.
The other participating experts will include Gered Lennon, a former state coastal geologist for South Carolina; and Paul Gayes, a coastal geologist at Coastal Carolina University.
Attending reporters will also receive:
- Overviews of lessons in North Carolina from hurricanes Bertha and Fran.
- A discussion of beach nourishment as a solution to shoreline retreat
-- both nationally and in Myrtle Beach.
- Updated rankings of all North and South Carolina islands with regard
- Risk tables for each island in both states' barrier island systems.