Community Member

Groundswell Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston residents like meteorologist Neil Dixon of the National Weather Service are extremely concerned — but not surprised — that the city is seeing more and more flooded streets and homes, even when a hurricane isn’t part of the equation.

“Since the ’90s onward, there’s been a pretty noticeable increasing trend in these events,” Dixon said. “Sea level rise, some development issues, and more and more development closer to the water” are all playing a role, according to Dixon.

Led by Susan Lyons, Groundswell Charleston is a grassroots organization of flood victims formed after Tropical Storm Irma in 2017, many of whom had sustained repeated flooding damage to their homes for three years in a row.

Susan Lyons at the U.S. Capitol advocating to her congressmembers about flooding solutions.

“I had to replace the ducts three times underneath my house, but other people had it far worse,” Lyons said.

Groundswell Charleston lobbies for relief from increasingly frequent flood waters that roll in from the harbors and the rivers. Residents see their quality of life being destroyed through diminished property values, exorbitant recovery costs, and prohibitive flood insurance premiums – not to mention the unquantifiable human toll.

The group has two main objectives. They endeavor to work with the city to develop and implement immediate short-term flood-abatement tactics and to develop and fund long-term mitigation strategies. As well, they connect residents with guidance on insurance issues, FEMA regulations, buyout programs, and raising homes.

Groundswell Charleston meeting, where more than 135 members show up (pre-COVID 19). At this meeting they invited the Mayor, Chief Resilience Officer, and councilmembers to speak on their plans to abate flooding.

A controversial abatement strategy by the Army Corps of Engineers proposes protecting the city of Charleston from storm surge flooding by encircling the city’s historic peninsula with an eight-mile seawall and building a 4,000-foot wave attenuating structure in Charleston harbor. Residents fear that the plan would “create a bowl effect, similar to the New Orleans problem, and places a significant part of the city below the water line and at risk of flooding if any of the significant machinery the wall relies on – like the gates and pumps – malfunctions,” according to the Coastal Conservation League.

In the last year, South Carolina passed a bill allowing hospitality taxes to fund flooding mitigation projects, seen by residents as a step in the right direction. As well, the Charleston mayor proclaimed flooding abatement and drainage mitigation the top priorities for his administration. Yet, Groundswell Charleston continues to push for substantive action over pleasant-sounding rhetoric.

Charleston, SC makes the headlines In the national news by Next Avenue, quoting Susan Lyons that “One popular retirement spot that’s seen more than its share of coastal flooding: Charleston, S.C. And you wouldn’t know it when you walk around the streets today.”

“Charleston is waiting. The Atlantic is not.” — Groundswell Charleston member Mark Bloom, in a Post and Courier Op-Ed piece.

Written by Kerri McLean


Navigating Flooding in Charleston, by the Communications Working Group of the Charleston 3 x 3 Army Corps Citizens Advisory Committee, October 2021

US Army Corps of Engineers Charleston Peninsula Sea Wall – Coastal Conservation League

Climate Change Is Bursting Retirement Bubbles Across America (

SC bill allows hospitality tax to fund flooding projects in tourist areas (

Take quick action on flooding, Post and Courier

Kerri McLean

Kerri McLean

Kerri is a Florida-based educator and writer devoted to telling the stories of heroes on the front lines of environmental justice. Experiencing over 30 years of hurricanes in the Florida Keys, she understands the ravages of climate change and repetitive flooding.


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