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Fire Island Coastal Change

Storm Impact and Recovery: Hurricane Sandy - Introduction

Natural-color image of Hurricane Sandy at 1:50 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on October 28, 2012.
Natural-color image of Hurricane Sandy at 1:50 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on October 28, 2012. Photo credit: NASA. [larger version]
According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Sandy, which was nearly 2,000 kilometers (km) in diameter, was the largest storm on historical record in the Atlantic basin. Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, coincident with an astronomically high tide. A wave buoy off Fire Island recorded record significant wave heights of 9.6 meters at the peak mean-high-water (MHW) of the storm.

The island was fundamentally altered from Sandy. Waves and storm surge caused extensive beach erosion. The dunes were severely eroded, overwashed or leveled along most of the island, and the island breached in three locations. The beach has undergone substantial recovery since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, including volumes and shoreline position.

Two days prior to Sandy's landfall, field surveys of the beaches and dunes were conducted at Fire Island to provide a baseline for quantifying morphologic changes caused by the storm. The field data collection included cross-shore profiles and alongshore survey lines which captured the MHW shoreline and upper portion of the beach along ~30km of Fire Island. After the storm passed, the beaches and dunes were re-surveyed over a period of several days. Additionally, in order to monitor the longer-term impacts of Sandy, the surveys were conducted monthly throughout the winter storm season of 2012-13, and the beaches and dune continue to be monitored periodically.

In order to evaluate the longer-term impacts and recovery from Sandy, field surveys were conducted monthly throughout the winter storm season of 2012-13 and the beach system is being monitored periodically as part of Hurricane Sandy Supplemental project GS2-2B. In addition to the 10 originally established profiles, 5 more, on the eastern portion of the island, have been added to the monitoring program.

Processes of overwash during Hurricane Sandy carried large volumes of material from the dunes to the interior portions of Fire Island. To record the amount and distribution of overwash from Sandy, surveys to measure thickness and aerial extents of the deposits were conducted. These data were used to calculate the volumes of material that were transported landward during Sandy.

Additional USGS Hurricane Sandy response efforts included predictions of the vulnerability of dunes to Hurricane Sandy prior to the storm and recording regional variations in water levels throughout the impacted region during the storm.

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