Southeast
une at 18th street, Tybee Island (Photo courtesy of Alan Robertson).

GA -Tybee Island prepares for hurricanes with long-term resiliency plans

Thousands of beachgoers visit Tybee Island each year to take in the scenic views of Georgia's barrier islands. What they may not notice is the environmental engineering and planning all around them aimed at protecting Tybee Island from storms and a rising sea level.

This year is slated to be another above-normal year for hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA predicts that through Nov. 30 the Atlantic region is likely to experience up to 21 named storms, which have winds of 39 mph or higher.

NOAA estimates that six to 10 of these named storms could become hurricanes, and three to six of those could be major hurricanes, ranging from categories 3 to 5 with winds more than 111 mph. For places like Tybee Island, struggling with flooding, erosion and sea-level rise, planning goes far beyond emergency management.

COASTAL RESILIENCY

In November 2019, the City of Tybee Island and the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant received a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to assess flood risks and potential adaptation solutions for the island’s low-lying marsh shoreline. Since then, those groups and local stakeholders have been shoring up protections on the island.

Jill Gamble, coastal resilience specialist and public service faculty with the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, has been working as a part of this coalition to prepare Tybee for the impacts of climate change.

"The vision for the project is coming from the community, so as part of this project we’ve done a ton of outreach and engagement … making sure that we are talking about priorities with community members for what they would like to see their island look like for years to come," Gamble said.

Rising waters:Tybee's Back River neighborhood is ground zero for sea level rise, flooding

A technical advisory group comprised of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, nonprofits, local governments, as well as a residential advisory group made up of business owners and residents, are helping advise what kinds of adaptation measures they'd like to see on the island, whether it be living shorelines or seawalls.  

"People very much preferred green infrastructure" as opposed to infrastructure like cement seawalls, Gamble said. "They really cared about water quality and habitat. And they were willing to help fund it if needed."

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