It had only been three months.
A beachfront state park in Beaufort County will likely remain closed for the rest of the year because of damage from Tropical Storm Irma, according to South Carolina recreation officials.
State Parks Director Phil Gaines said after visiting Hunting Island State Park on Tuesday that it was unlikely to reopen before January. The park had just opened its gates again in early June after more than seven months of extensive repairs following Hurricane Matthew. “We will get this cleaned up and we will be back good as new,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “But it is very sobering because we just went through this and we were so excited.”
Hunting Island’s beaches were already weakened by Hurricane Matthew and the constant erosion the park already faces naturally. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism officials had previously announced plans to renourish the beach with 1.2 million cubic yards of new sand and dunes. A hearing on a permit for the project had ironically been scheduled for this week, Gaines said. Officials still hope to get approval and begin the project early next year.
Gaines said, unlike Hurricane Matthew, most of the new damage was due to the storm’s unusually high tides covering land already saturated by a wet summer. He said water still remains across a majority of the day-use areas in the park, even now that the tide has receded.
“A major part of the damage came from the storm surge that coincided with a king tide (exceptionally high tide),” he said. “So we had a lot of infiltration from the ocean.”
The park’s access roads remain covered in water, while its campground infrastructure was flooded by the storm surge. Much of the campground’s electrical equipment and utilities must be replaced after it was covered by the salt water.
Less damage occurred at Edisto Beach State Park roughly ten miles to the northeast, although that park also remains closed until damage assessments are finished. Gaines said the park’s Live Oak Campground was damaged by strong winds only ten days after it also reopened following Hurricane Matthew repairs. The National Weather Service has concluded the park was hit by a “microburst” as Irma’s winds blew through.
He said downed trees must be cleared at Live Oak and electrical boxes must also be replaced at campsites. Park officials have canceled all camping reservations through the end of the year, although Gaines was optimistic the rest of the park would be open again in another week.