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Georgia’s Vanishing Coast: With stronger storms, higher tides, and rising sea levels, how high will the water go?
On the Georgia coast, which spans 100 miles between Savannah and St. Marys, two things have become apparent during the last decade: Climate change is coming, and it’s already here. If the last decade’s increased tidal flooding initiated a conversation about the changing sea, the hurricane double-header of 2016 and 2017 added a couple of exclamation points. But while the effects of storms will be more severe with climate change, Georgia’s vulnerability to them isn’t new.
Between planning family vacations and running away for novel-writing retreats, I’ve spent much of my adult life questing for the perfect beach escape, renting cottages all along the Florida Gulf and up and down the Atlantic Coast—as far north as Nags Head, as far south as Key West.
Among ecosystems, Georgia’s coast ranks near tropical rainforests in fertility and productivity. Its nine major estuaries (or sounds), 14 barrier islands, and some 400,000 acres of salt marsh—a third of all salt marsh along the entire Atlantic coast—connect to the ocean and each other.
Known as Savannah’s Beach, Tybee Island is located eighteen miles east of the city on the Atlantic Ocean. For many visitors, the action is centered on South Beach, site of the Tybee Pier and Pavilion and steps away from the souvenir shops, casual eateries, and frozen daiquiri bars lining lively Tybrisa and Strand streets.
Beginning this month, typically in the dead of night, pregnant sea turtles weighing as much as a Falcons lineman will emerge from the Atlantic Ocean, spend an hour digging holes with their rear flippers on the beaches of Georgia’s barrier islands, deposit a hundred or so eggs, repack the sand, and head back into the ocean.
In a place as bountiful as Georgia, good food is a way of life. From the Northeast Mountains to the Coast, you'll find original dishes, homemade products, and events that celebrate the finer points of eating and drinking. Go somewhere delicious this season.
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