Irma damage closes Hunting Island State Park for rest of year

As South Carolina communities pick up the pieces and move on after Irma, it will take one state park a little longer to recover.

Hunting Island State Park in Beaufort County is one barrier island of campground and beach that hosts 1 million visitors each year.

A broken fence and washed up debris is a good indicator of just how far the ocean came onto the island.

Hunting Island State Park is popular among visitors for its beaches, and campgrounds, nature, and lighthouse. But flooding tides and storm surge brought more water onto the island than expected.

There are roads, buildings, and parking lots under water. And each time a sizable storm hits the barrier island, it loses some of its ground from erosion.

For example, last year’s Hurricane Matthew damaged the park as well.

RELATED: See photos of the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew last year.

Park rangers say it makes re-nourishment efforts to save the island, even more important.

“For this one, we had no protection at all from any type of storm surge. So, that really created a problem for us because there was nothing to stop the water from coming all the way up,” Daniel Gambrell, state park manager, said. “And when water is coming that far up, it does a lot of damage to your grounds, to your trees, to your facilities. So, it can really impact everything.”

But one benefit of the barrier island is to protect the mainland in a storm like Irma, and that’s what rangers say happened here.

The park manager says it’s lucky the lighthouse wasn’t damaged. But still, he believes the park should be closed for the rest of the year.