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Assessing Public Perception to Coastal Hazards in South Carolina

Authors: Michelle Harris*, University of South Carolina, Jean Ellis, University of South Carolina
Topics: Coastal and Marine, Hazards and Vulnerability, Natural Resources
Keywords: Coastal hazards, public engagement
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Public perception and involvement are paramount to policy change and management implementation. As sea levels continue to rise, the threat of coastal hazards will continue to impact beachfront homeowners and the coastal tourism industry. Increasing recognition has been placed on king tides, which are defined in South Carolina as predicted water levels exceeding 2.0 m (6.6 ft) above MLLW at the Charleston Harbor Tide Station. These ‘sunny day floods’ from abnormally high tides serve as a proxy for future sea level rise. Coastal erosion, nuisance flooding, and transportation delays are commonly reported as impacts from king tides, although results drastically by event. Although the outcomes from these flooding events are recorded through citizen science efforts such as MyCoast, this website is not capturing public perceptions and opinions. Therefore, the goal of this study was to assess beachgoer knowledge and perception of king tide events, hurricanes, sea level rise, and to capture opinions about the resultant hazard potential to coastal communities. The study was completed by using an electronic questionnaire that was offered to local residents and visitors at public beaches in South Carolina. Results indicate current gaps in visitor and resident knowledge regarding coastal processes, potential threat and vulnerability, and management efforts. Outcomes from this survey can assist with future educational outreach efforts and emergency preparation and response.

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