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St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center > Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms > Hurricane Sandy

Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms

Hurricane Sandy

Field Observations and Measurements of Coastal Change - Fire Island, New York

As Hurricane Sandy moved up the eastern U.S. coast and the forecasts were predicting significant impacts to the south shore of Long Island, a field team went to Fire Island on the south shore of Long Island, NY, to survey the beach, dunes and shoreline. The pre-storm survey was conducted on October 28, 2012. Following the storm, surveys were conducted over several days (November 1 and 2, 2012) to measure beach and dune erosion.

The impacts to the island were extensive. The majority of oceanfront homes in the communities within Fire Island National Seashore were damaged or destroyed. Enormous volumes of sand were carried from the beach and dunes to the central portion of the island, forming large overwash deposits, and the island was breached in 3 locations. With few exceptions, lower-relief dunes were overwashed and flattened. High dunes, which are more commonly found within undeveloped portions of the island, experienced severe erosion and overwash. The elevation of the beach was lowered and the dunes form vertical scarps where they survived.


Oceanfront homes were destroyed in the community of Davis Park.
Oceanfront homes were destroyed in the community of Davis Park. [larger version]
  More damage of oceanfront houses along western Fire Island.
More damage of oceanfront houses along western Fire Island. [larger version]
  Dunes were severely eroded and the beach elevation lowered during the storm.
Dunes were severely eroded and the beach elevation lowered during the storm. [larger version]

Some key findings of the field data collection effort indicate that:

  • 50% of the dunes on Fire Island were overwashed during the storm, carrying large volumes of material to the interior portion of the island
  • In locations where the dunes remained intact, they eroded an average of 22m in cross-beach position
  • Dune elevation losses were as high as 5m and the berm of the beach was lowered by as much as 3m

The USGS worked closely with personnel from the National Park Service (NPS) to gain access to the island, and to survey and measure the dramatic changes to the barrier system. The post-storm data was used to help the NPS assess the areas of the coast that were most vulnerable to a nor'easter that impacted the coast a week after Sandy.


Cross-shore profiles from before and after hurricane Sandy for western Fire Island. [larger version]


Preliminary results from field surveys of net shoreline change and dune toe change (NSM) from Hurricane Sandy along western Fire Island. The locations of the cross-shore profiles are shown in red. The gray boxes on the plot are areas where the dunes were overwashed. The gain in the shoreline is due to rapid recovery of the lowest portion of the beach in the days following the storm (Photo: NOAA, 2012). [larger version]


Cross-shore profiles from before and after hurricane Sandy for central Fire Island. [larger version]


Preliminary results from field surveys of net shoreline change and dune toe change from Hurricane Sandy along central Fire Island. The locations of the cross-shore profiles are shown in red. The gray boxes on the plot are areas where the dunes were overwashed The gain in the shoreline is due to rapid recovery of the lowest portion of the beach in the days following the storm (Photo: NOAA, 2012). [larger version]


St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center > Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms > Hurricane Sandy

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