Hanna-spawned erosion threatens beach homes

Posted September 3, 2008 5:36 p.m. EDT
Updated September 3, 2008 6:33 p.m. EDT

— Tropical Storm Hanna has started tearing at North Carolina beaches, eating away sand from areas already ravaged by erosion.

"Within the last two days, even, you can see ... the erosion of about 2 feet of depth, showing the sand that has been lost," Topsail Beach resident Todd Turpin said.

Topsail Island has lost up to 50 feet of beach over the past five years, leaving some areas with a sliver of sand. Pender County has condemned some oceanfront homes where erosion has threatened their structural integrity.

Surf churned up by Hanna crashed ashore Wednesday beneath a row of condemned homes. Local officials plan to demolish the buildings, but the storm will arrive before that occurs, which Turpin said creates a potential hazard.

"With these homes in particular," he said, referring to the row of condemned houses, "you can see as well as I can the water lifting them and pushing them back. (That) would definitely be a concern if I had a property there."

State Division of Coastal Management officials this weekend will begin sending letters to beachfront property owners with exposed and old sandbags, informing them the protective measures need to be replaced. Homeowners will have 30 days to comply.

Many residents said a beach renourishment is the best long-term solution, but in the face of Hanna, they are preparing to weather the storm.

"We've got contractors on standby to get all of our facilities boarded up for each of our homeowners," Turpin said. "(We'll) pray for the best."

Pender County officials said they might issue evacuation orders Thursday or Friday if Hanna poses too much of a threat to the beach.

"We will have the roads blocked off and not allow any residents back on the island unless they have a hurricane pass," said Deb Hill, Topsail Beach assistant town manager.