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Hurricane Matthew uncovers Civil War-era cannonballs in Folly Beach, South Carolina

Police shut down a section of a beach in South Carolina after 150-year-old explosives were unearthed by Hurricane Matthew.

Charleston, South Carolina, police responded to reports of 16 unexploded Civil War cannonballs, which had been stirred up by Matthew's rough surf, on Folly Beach. Some of the Civil War-era cannonballs had to be detonated in place where they were found.

"A local resident was walking on the beach on that side of the island and noticed them. He was immediately aware of what they were and notified our dispatch," Folly Beach Public Safety Dept. Chief Andrew Gilreath said.

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Gilreath said it's difficult to say whether the cannonballs would have detonated if stepped on, but he believed that it's not likely they would exploded in that case.

"Gunpowder with this kind of age can be very unstable. Folks mistakenly think that all cannonballs were just big metal objects and that is not the case. There are all types of cannonballs, some of which are explosive or incendiary," Gilreath said.

The Charleston County Ordinance Disposal Team decided to transport some of the cannonballs to a nearby Navy base to be destroyed.

"Finding ordnance along the coastline after a major storm or during construction is fairly common, especially in cities that were heavily fortified during the Civil War," Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Leslie, noncommissioned officer in charge of Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Resources at the Joint Base in Charleston, South Carolina, said. "In this case, Folly Beach was the site of an artillery battery and supply depot during the Civil War, so it isn't surprising that some of the ordnance survived."

The Civil War's first shots were fired in nearby Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The cannonballs were so old that local law enforcement and Air Force explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) airmen determined it was best to properly dispose of these hazards by detonating the ordnance.

"There are many factors as to why they didn't previously go off, but also many reasons as to why they could have," Gilreath said.

The process of detonating the bombs did not pose a threat to the community.

"We responded, secured the scene, notified the Charleston County Ordinance Disposal Team and they assisted by handling the scene and ordinance from there as this was right in their wheelhouse of expertise," Gilreath said.

By evening, police gave the all clear and re-opened the beach.