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St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

Vulnerability of National Park Service Beaches to Inundation During a Direct Hurricane Landfall

index map showing locations of Fire Island, Cape Lookout, and Cumberland Island National Seashores.Fire Island National SeashoreCape Lookout National SeashoreCumberland Island National Seashore
Index map. Click on National Park name or outline to view the vulnerability maps for Fire Island, Cape Lookout, and Cumberland Island National Seashores.
Along much of the East Coast of the United States, hurricanes have been responsible for some of the most dramatic changes to our coastal environments—from the creation of large overwash deposits to the opening of new inlets. Strong winds associated with these tropical storms bring large waves and storm surge that force significant changes on fragile barrier islands, where the balance between island stability and rising water levels is maintained by dynamic changes of beach morphology.  On developed barrier islands, hurricane-induced coastal change makes local infrastructure more vulnerable to failure.  Even in our national coastal parks, where development is strictly managed, hurricanes threaten to destroy infrastructure that keeps the parks operational (roads, communications, park buildings) as well as to alter dramatically the beaches and dunes that provide visitors with the opportunity to observe wildlife and experience the interaction of the land and the sea.

A complete and comprehensive management plan preparing for a hurricane landfall, as well as plans for post-hurricane recovery, should be based, in part, on an assessment of what areas of the coast are most vulnerable. In order to help several of our coastal National Parks prepare for a possible hurricane landfall, the USGS, at the request of the National Park Service (NPS), has prepared an analysis of the vulnerability of several NPS barrier island beaches to inundation during a direct landfall. The results can be used to assess what areas of a park are most susceptible to extreme coastal change during a hurricane. The findings can also be inter-compared between NPS coastal parks to determine, in a relative sense, which parks are most at risk to inundation during strong tropical storms.

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Page Last Modified: July 31, 2013 @ 11:10 AM (JSS)