The Long Rain. Joaquin’s Filthy Barrels, Epic Devastation and Rising Tide. A Photo Diary from Charleston.

by Chris Dixon

JustinMorris_DSC0839

Griffin Jackson. Folly Beach. Photo: Justin Morris/Follyhood.

THE rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and the ton, it hacked at the jungle and cut the trees like scissors and shaved the grass and tunneled the soil and molted the bushes. It shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes; it rained a solid glassy rain, and it never stopped. — Ray Bradbury.


Here in South Carolina, the past two weeks have been best of times for surfers, and the worst of times for everyone else. I’m not really sure how to otherwise describe the last two weeks of life here. As everyone knows, Hurricane Joaquin and the Almighty conspired just over a week ago, to unleash an apocalyptic fire hose of precipitation and surf on the Palmetto State. Rainfall in some places near my home in Charleston was along the lines of 25 inches over the course of three days. That’s half of the average annual rainfall for many parts of the state – over the course of 72 hours. If you’ve ever seen a “Pineapple Express” hit southern California – it was sort of like that, only much, much worse.

IMG_5033

A couple of days before Joaquin. Photo: Chris Dixon

In the days and hours leading up to the first drops of rain, while hapless Bahamians and the crew of the container ship El Faro were being mercilessly hammered, our coast was blessed with a stretch of heavenly weather and perfect waves. That’s always been the Faustian, nerve-wracking, and immoral bargain Gulf and East Coast surfers make with hurricanes. Someone is being slammed. Someone else is feasting on tropically sourced waves – and that someone may soon be under the gun too. And we would indeed be under the gun.

LongboardRoof_Washout_IMG_4811

The first line of storms just offshore from Folly Beach. Photo: Chris Dixon

The only upshot to the storm was the heaving surf that built in Friday ahead of the first rains. The wind was offshore, and the beach breaks here – as you’ll see from the accompanying photos – were as good as they get.

Folly5IMG_5142

Overhead and warbly. Photo: Chris Dixon

Folly6IMG_5120

A Washout Wedge. Photo: Chris Dixon

About an hour before the heavens opened , I told my wife I thought we should probably get the boat off our backyard dock and into the driveway. Racing to the Folly landing, the boat was safely trailered minutes before the first wave of storms blasted in with stinging, blinding rain and 40 mile per hour winds. I couldn’t help shake the feeling that my fair city and state, the cradle of the Confederacy and the madness of the Civil War, was about to further pay for the sins of a very wicked past.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 10.33.23 AM

The firehose of the apocalypse. “That looks like the trunk of a demon elephant.” Charleston Native Stephen Colbert takes issue with Joaquin.

And indeed, once the rain came, it simply didn’t stop. Living through the ceaseless, three day inundation was a bizarre, maddening, tooth grinding encounter with our warming climate. Something I can only liken to the experience faced by the team of astronauts in Ray Bradbury’s epic short story The Long Rain. Unable to escape the second planet’s relentless rains, the crew was slowly driven mad.

LongRain

I didn’t surf on Saturday the third, having been called into duty by  The New York Times for some storm reporting, the need to dig a trench around my house that led to to our storm drain, the need to elevate all the furniture and appliances downstairs, and to double tie off my beat up old dock and fret like an expectant father as the storm water came higher – and higher. The only happy creatures appeared to be a swarm of neighborhood ducks.

IMG_5057

Ducks in our neighborhood love a flood. Photo: Chris Dixon

IMG_5148

Yes, we put our dishwasher on the counter top. Photo: Chris Dixon

IMG_5150

A few hours before high tide. The water and wind were calm. Photo: Chris Dixon

BackYard1_IMG_5160

Then as the tide came up, a major squall blew in. I was certain the back yard was going to flood from the nine foot tides. On most days, this is not an inland sea, but a salt marsh. Photo: Chris Dixon

Bakyard2_IMG_5164

Photo: Chris Dixon

Miraculously for us, the waters ceased rising. But others would not be so lucky. As I reported in the Times, local surfers Kirk and Pauline Meekins watched with shock as the waters came higher and higher, completely flooding their back yard and pool. Kirk though, told me that he realized that compared to others, “This is a first world problem.” So he relaxed in his yard with a beer, while his daughters rode their backyard slide into their new backyard lake.

KirkBackyardIMG_5159

That’s the deck of Kirk’s pool. The dark line is the pool. Photo: Pauline Meekins. 

PaulineBackyardIMG_5161

Photo: Kirk Meekins. 

Phil-Kelly2_IMG_5152

Surfer Phil Kelly stopped by a neighbor’s house on his way to check the waves at the height of the storm – wearing a full wetsuit. Photo: Chris Dixon

Sunday dawned no less stormy. In fact, everything was an absolute mess and the sky was still pissing rain. But with the house as secured as possible, there was little left to do but go surfing in some of the best waves I’ve seen here in years, and take a few pictures.

My buddy Patrick Willey, aka Two Feet and Classy, was out too. He managed to get a shots of me and several of the local crew. Thanks Patrick.

A Cherry BOMB for Chris Dixon from Sundays shred session at the Folly Pier #hurricanejoaquin

Posted by Patrick Willey on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Paul Martin on point this morning at the Folly Pier #shredgnar

Posted by Patrick Willey on Sunday, October 4, 2015

Folly4IMG_5132

Sunday Gawkers at the Washout. Photo: Chris Dixon

FollyWashoutA-Frame_IMG_5122

Splitting a stormy Washout Peak. Photo: Chris Dixon

Folly3IMG_5075

Another lined up left. Photo: Chris Dixon

Folly2IMG_5077

Look closely, and you can see a happily barreled surfer on the righthand wave at Folly’s flooded pier.
Photo: Chris Dixon

JustinMorris_DSC0403

Josh Wilson. Photo: Justin Morris/Follyhood.

JustinMorris_DSC2329

Charlie Guss. Setting up on a stormy one. Photo: Justin Morris/Follyhood.

FollyBlackWhiteWashout_IMG_4866

Look closely – another surfer in the barrel. Photo: Chris Dixon

FollyPier_New_IMG_5091

Light offshores. Long lefts. Photo: Chris Dixon

Folly_NewBatch2_IMG_5166

Gloomy and beautiful. Note the destroyed dune fencing – part of a $35 million dollar Army Corps beach renourishment project that’s rapidly disappearing. Photo: Chris Dixon

FollyBlackWhiteWall_IMG_5236

A last, long left at Folly Beach. Photo: Chris Dixon

In the end, while my family avoided flooding, my dad’s house up the road in Pawleys Island would not be so lucky.

JunkTruck_IMG_5240

A truckload of flooded junk and memories. Photo: Chris Dixon

But that’ll be another story… CD

Facebook Comments