A year later, Pawleys Pier owners still planning to rebuild
Fishing lines now dangle from the end of the Pawleys Pier where, one year ago, only broken timbers hung after Hurricane Ian cut the structure in half. The shortened pier is the most visible reminder of the storm that made its final landfall at North Island after crossing Florida into the Atlantic.
But the recovery continues in smaller ways along the coast. Even though Ian was barely noticed west of Highway 17, the storm surge from what was classed as a Category 1 hurricane was nearly as high as the surge from Hurricane Hugo, the Category 4 storm that made landfall north of Charleston in September 1989.
“Each storm is going to be different, and each storm is going to bring a different set of impacts,” Brandon Ellis, Georgetown County’s director of Emergency Management, said after Tropical Storm Idalia passed over the Waccamaw Neck last month. “We saw the storm surge with Hurricane Ian last year. It rivaled Category 2 storms that impacted our coast in the past.”
Pawleys Pier was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo. Property owners walking the beach after Ian said the sight of pier pilings along the dune line was eerily familiar.
Video taken by owners who stayed in their condos at Pawleys Pier Village during Ian showed the gazebo at the end of the pier floating away, a tattered American flag still flying, around 1 p.m. on Sept. 30. The 820-foot pier was half that length after the hurricane.
The pier was insured for $5.5 million and the homeowners association at Pawleys Pier Village immediately started making plans to rebuild. This summer, the association received a permit from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to conduct a soil boring “to analyze sediments as their consultants prepare an application to repair or replace the pier,” an agency spokeswoman said.
Kathy Reid, the president of the association, said in an email that proposals for the design and construction are due this fall. “The project should begin early next year,” she said.
“When they were doing the boring, they were very proactive in coordinating with the town,” Administrator Dan Newquist said.
The town took back responsibility for building permits this year. It had previously let Georgetown County handle those under a contract. The plan review and inspections are done by a private firm, SafeBuilt.
Work on the pier will also require a town permit, Newquist said, and “once I get a better feel for the timeline, I’ll definitely be soliciting some input” from SafeBuilt.
“We just want to make sure it’s safe,” he added.
The town paid to remove debris from the pier along with other storm debris. It was reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state Emergency Management Division.
The town is still working with DHEC to get dock debris removed from the marsh. “It is the permitted dock owner’s responsibility,” Newquist said.
But identifying the owner of the debris is hard. The state agency was working on that this summer, Newquist said.
State Rep. Lee Hewitt, a former DHEC board member, said he is interested in seeing how that works. He watched the storm surge from Ian rise over his creekfront lot in Murrells Inlet.
“I still have a portion of a long set of steps in front of my house” that washed up, he said.
Docks were damaged all along the inlet waterfront.
“Dock contractors are still backed up from repair projects from Ian,” Hewitt said.
The town replaced a damaged beach access at First Street this month with a plastic Mobi-mat that can be moved before a storm.
Once the last sea turtle nest hatches in the middle of the island, the town will wrap up a sand fence and dune planting program, Newquist said. Signs telling people to stay off the dunes are due from DHEC.
“As far as getting back to normal, I think we did really well,” Newquist said. “I think we learned a lot. Each storm has its own impacts.”