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Bipartisan Leadership for our Oceans and Coasts

Last month marked the 30 Year anniversary of Hurricane Hugo making landfall in South Carolina.

When NOAA posted satellite imagery of an incoming hurricane on September 21, 1989, we had no idea that the name “Hugo” would go on to become a household name in South Carolina over 30 Years later.


When Hugo barreled into our state, it began a rapid assault that was the most expensive, damaging storm to hit the United States to date. More than 3,300 houses and more than 12,000 mobile homes were destroyed. It took the lives of 35 South Carolinians.

Today, only a month after Hurricane Dorian and a Year after Hurricane Florence, Hugo remains a powerful reminder of the dangers these storms can bring. Yet, there are major differences between them.

Storms since Hugo have gotten stronger and wetter, and are moving differently across warmer waters. Florence, for example, battered the state for days, dropping more than 30 inches of rain in some communities. Dorian lingered for days in the Bahamas, causing incredible devastation and leaving many holding their breath along our coast. Hugo, in comparison, was fast-moving, leaving no more than 10 inches of rainfall in its wake.

Hugo briefly reached Category 5 during its lifespan. Since we began keeping records of hurricanes, only 35 have ever reached category 5 strength in the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. Over time, the Atlantic has averaged only one category 5 storm forming every three Years.

However, in the last four Years, five of these strongest storms have formed.

Our climate is changing, and our oceans are absorbing the brunt of it.

As our waters continue to warm, there is more energy available for these storms. South Carolinians are seeing the direct effects of climate change first hand in greater, more frequent flooding, sea level rise, and increased storm potency and activity.

An IPCC Report released last week confirms this. The IPCC Report on the oceans shared a consensus assessment of the latest climate and ocean science – which says the ocean is warming, acidifying, and losing oxygen at an astounding pace. In short, these impacts threaten everything the ocean does for us – supplying food, supporting coastal economies, regulating weather, buffering shorelines from hurricanes, and more. You can read more here from the Post & Courier.

Our oceans are at risk and our coastal communities are at risk from a changing climate and warming ocean.

But the threats don’t end with today’s warmer oceans and stronger storms. The trends that we’re seeing are only predicted to continue. This means stronger and more frequent storms. And it means that things in their way are at risk.

This fact is even more concerning when you consider the federal government’s push to open the coast of South Carolina to offshore drilling. Think about it. Could you imagine if Hurricanes Hugo, Florence, or Dorian had hit South Carolina if we had hundreds or thousands of oil rigs off our coast?

Imagine if Hurricane Dorian had walked up our coastline, pulling oil rigs from the ocean floor like they were carrots being pulled from a garden. The impact on our ocean environment and coastal economy would have been catastrophic.

But there is hope.

There is bipartisan leadership and positive steps being made to combat our warming oceans and save our coast from the risks of offshore drilling.

Yesterday, Congressman Joe Cunningham and I co-authored an editorial in Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette that highlighted bipartisan leadership in South Carolina to protect our communities and protect our oceans.

We know that the time to act is now. We cannot afford to wait.

Earlier this Year, CVSC and our partners worked with legislators, community leaders, and industry experts to pass the Energy Freedom Act and expand clean energy options in South Carolina – not only because energy competition will reduce energy bills, but because it moves us to a clean energy future.

And CVSC and our partners – like Peg Howell, our 2019 Green Tie Advocacy Award Winner, and the team at SODA – have continued to build a groundswell of bipartisan opposition to drilling off our coast. With a 40-4 vote on a 1 Year drilling ban in the SC Senate earlier this Year and over 40 bipartisan cosponsors signed on to a permanent drilling ban in the SC House, we know that an end to this fight is within our grasp.

But we cannot do it alone.

We depend on advocates like you who support good policies and candidates who prioritize the future of our state. We depend on you to bring in friends and neighbors to help us educate your communities and give people the tools to empower themselves.

As Congressman Cunningham and I said that “when we stand together, we can do incredible things…

Help CVSC be a part of these incredible things by taking action on a wide range of issues today – you can find a number of ways to get involved in our action center >> https://p2a.co/ozIR2sm.

We all call this state home and together we can build a brighter future for the South Carolina we love.

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