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Lowcountry at high tide

FILE - An aerial view taken from a Coast Guard helicopter showing the continuing effects of flooding caused by Hurricane Joaquin in areas surrounding Charleston, S.C., Oct. 5, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann
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U.S. Coast Guard
FILE - An aerial view taken from a Coast Guard helicopter showing the continuing effects of flooding caused by Hurricane Joaquin in areas surrounding Charleston, S.C., Oct. 5, 2015.

The signs are there: our coastal cities are increasingly susceptible to flooding as the climate changes. Charleston, South Carolina, is no exception, and is one of the American cities most vulnerable to rising sea levels. Lowcountry at High Tide: A History of Flooding, Drainage, and Reclamation in Charleston, South Carolina (USC Press, 2010) is the first book to deal with the topographic evolution of Charleston, its history of flooding from the seventeenth century to the present, and the efforts made to keep its populace high and dry, as well as safe and healthy.

For centuries residents have made many attempts, both public and private, to manipulate the landscape of the low-lying peninsula on which Charleston sits, surrounded by wetlands, to maximize drainage, and thus buildable land and to facilitate sanitation. Author Christina Rae Butler uses three hundred years of archival records to show not only the alterations to the landscape past and present, but also the impact those efforts have had on the residents at various socio-economic levels throughout its history.

Butler talks with Walter Edgar about talk about Charleston’s topographic history and the challenges it faces in the 21st century.

- Originally broadcast 10/23/20 -

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.