South Carolina Governor recognizes sea level rise as concern

This past Friday Governor Nikki Haley stopped in North Charleston on her yearly tour to encourage local emergency management officials, businesses and residents to start preparing for a possible hurricane.  Her message was not just that everybody should know how to evacuate or what supplies to have just in case, but that the community should also develop a plan for how to more quickly return to everyday business and personal activities following a hurricane.

All of our coastal residents and businesses should heed the Governor’s words.

However her words that really caught my attention in the Charleston Post and Courier story (below) were these as Governor Haley explained why the state is increasing its efforts to promote hurricane preparedness.

“’What we have looked at is the changes in population, the changes in sea level and we have expanded our capacities in terms of shelters,” she said.”

The issue of sea level rise has not been one that our state Republican leaders have allowed to be part of public policy discussions except typically to deny that climate change and the resulting rising seas are real.

So Governor Haley should be congratulated for separating the serious issue of sea level rise from the usual partisan rhetoric.  Possibly state agency planners have explained to her how rising seas can accelerate the negative impact of storm surge.

At my request Dan Rizza, Manager of Climate Central’s Program on Sea Level Rise, put together a webinar on Charleston’s inundation vulnerability under different scenarios of sea level rise.

One point Dan made that directly addresses Governor Haley’s comment about “changes in sea level” is that it doesn’t take much of a rise in the sea level to dramatically increase severe flooding in Charleston during a storm surge.

According to the analysis of Climate Central’s experts, if we have absolutely no sea level rise there is about a 30% chance of a 3-foot flood in Charleston by the year 2030.  But if the sea level increases by just 4.8 inches, the chance of a 3-foot flood in Charleston goes up to about 80%.

This is clearly one of the reasons that the state wants our coast to prepare in earnest.  The fact is that the sea level is rising and with every ¼ inch a severe natural weather disaster gets more probable.

So yes our coast should be preparing for a hurricane, one that is a direct hit and even one that only pushes a storm surge our way.  But we should be doing more than planning on how to evacuate, shelter in place and get the local economy back to normal afterwards.

Our coastal communities should be planning for what they can be doing now or in the near future to be more resilient to a 3-foot flood.  The cities of Beaufort and Port Royal have a community sea level task force doing just that.  If all our other coastal communities, especially Charleston, do this planning, they will be well on their way of being more resilient to a sea level rise of 1-foot, 2-feet, 3-feet or more that is certainly coming in the decades ahead.


Charleston Post and Courier
May 30, 2015

Gov. Haley calls for businesses to be ready for hurricane

By Prentiss Findlay

South Carolina is placing a new emphasis this hurricane season on business preparedness.

“This year we really have tried to look at the economy. It is not just about families anymore,” Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday.

Getting people back to work is key to hurricane recovery as well as the re-opening of banks, groceries and big-box retailers, Haley said.

The State Emergency Management Division will urge businesses to have adequate insurance for hurricane wind and water damage. Employers are being asked to talk with workers about what to expect if an evacuation is necessary, she said.

“What are the shift changes that would happen? How would they close down their manufacturing lines? How would they open them back up?

“All of these things need to be accounted for and so what we want everyone to know is this is a time of planning, this is a time to make sure we are doing what we are supposed to,” Haley said.

She spoke in North Charleston during her annual hurricane preparedness tour. Emergency management officials from Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties joined her.

Residents need to know their evacuation route and have a plan to care for children, the elderly and pets. Advance preparation includes gathering essential documents and having adequate supplies is important, she said.

“It is that time again but we don’t want it to be something people get used to. We want it to be something where we really get our families to understand it is hurricane season,” she said.

Monday marks the beginning of the hurricane season.

The new state hurricane guide that includes evacuation routes will be available Sunday in the Post and Courier, as well as at the state EMD website.

Capt. Rob Woods, emergency management coordinator for the state Department of Public Safety, said the DPS and state Department of Transportation began preparations in January.

“As we finalize our plans we ask the public to do the same in particular as it pertains to evacuations,” he said. Ensure that you know your route and that you have a destination in plan, he said.

Dick Jenkins, state traffic management engineer, said if an evacuation is ordered traffic flow on the interstate and other roads would be reversed immediately so that all lanes would be for vehicles leaving the area.

“Of course, we will monitor all of this very closely to make this the best ride that we can,” he said.

Haley said South Carolina has many newer residents who have never been through a major hurricane so it is important for them to learn about evacuation routes and what supplies they need to be prepared.

“What we have looked at is the changes in population, the changes in sea level and we have expanded our capacities in terms of shelters,” she said.

There has also been an emphasis on transportation needs, she said.

Scroll to Top