CCU students use drones detect erosion patterns along Grand Strand ahead of Hurricane Dorian


NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – One Coastal Carolina University professor and his students are using new technology along areas of the Grand Strand, to better understand what storms like Hurricane Dorian could do to the coast.

The drone surveys are helping the team study what our shores look like now versus how Dorian could change them.

Dr. Paul Gayes, the Director of Marine and Wetland Studies at Coastal Carolina University and a group of his students were in Hog Inlet in North Myrtle Beach Tuesday to use new technology like drones, studying the Grand Strand’s shores and analyzing them, before Hurricane Dorian possibly makes landfall.

“Erosion and behavior of the coast can be much more variable locally,” said Dr. Gayes.

Dr. Gayes and his students are always learning new things about how our shores respond to storms.

“We’re looking at some areas where there’s been some recently constructed dunes during renourishment, others that have grown naturally in the last couple of years, and looking at how those kinds of geometries are responding to the storm,” he said.

Tuesday morning, they used drones to look at patterns of erosion and inlet flooding in dunes along North Myrtle Beach.

Since the late 1980s, the state of South Carolina has run surveys at around 400 sites along the coast to gather data on the dunes.

“That does a pretty good job in general of getting the overall character of erosion along the state,” said Dr. Gayes.

Along the Grand Strand, the CCU team is collecting data in areas most vulnerable to storm damage like erosion and flooding, in the inlets where the waves and currents of the ocean are.

Dr. Gayes says drone surveys like these can’t tell us what Hurricane Dorian will do in advance, but it does give us a better understanding of what Dorian-like storms could do in the future.

“The better we can match what our predictive capabilities for how a beach will behave against realities of when storms come in, the more confident we are when we have a storm of this type or that type that some of the predictions can get ever more accurate and ever more helpful to local management,” he said.

Cherry Grove Beach could be one of the hardest hit areas if Hurricane Dorian does make landfall.

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