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Fire Island Coastal Change

Storm Impact and Recovery: Hurricane Sandy - Wilderness Breach

Of the breaches that formed along the Long Island coast during Hurricane Sandy, one remains open. The open breach, referred to as Wilderness Breach because it is located within the Otis Pike High Dune Wilderness Area, formed at a location known as Old Inlet and migrated rapidly westward over the winter storm season following Hurricane Sandy. Since 2013, the breach has been largely stable.

The USGS is currently conducting a morphologic evolution analysis of the breach which includes bathymetric and topographic field surveys and morphodynamic modeling in conjunction with Deltares. The goals of this effort are to understand the formation and evolution of the breach and its impacts to the morphology of the adjacent barrier island, and to develop capabilities for predicting stability of future breaches that may occur on Fire Island or other similar environments. In order to capture the morphology of the breach channel and the ebb and flood shoals, the USGS has conducted 4 surveys of the breach (as of May 2015). The first was in collaboration with USACE to bring the LARC system to Fire Island in June 2013 to collect single beam bathymetry . Additional surveys (June 2014 , October 2014, and May 2015) have been conducted by the USGS St Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, using personal watercraft equipped with single-beam echo sounders and backpack GPS over shallow flood shoals. USGS Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/lsrm/tech/tech1-eaarl.html) was also flown over the shoreface and breach in June 2014. Positions of the Wilderness Breach eastern and western s horelines have been collected frequently by the National Park Service and USGS St Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center. The shorelines were surveyed weekly to months beginning on November 6, 2012, with measurements occurring every few weeks for the first year and every few months after October 2013. The USGS New York Water Science Center (USGS NYWSC) also participated in the effort by collecting data on flow velocities within the breach throughout the year and during the USGS bathymetry surveys (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/measurements?site_no=01305207&agency_cd=USGS&format=gif). The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) and researchers from Stonybrook University have been monitoring the breach by collecting field data of the breach channel bathymetry, conducting aerial photographic overflights and water quality analyses (see http://po.msrc.sunysb.edu/GSB/index.html#BPRt).

index map showing location of Sandy breach

Orthophotograph of the new Old Inlet Breach taken 5 days after Hurricane Sandy   Bathymetry of breach showing a well-developed ebb shoal on the ocean side of the breach that is attached to the nearshore bar.
Above left: Orthophotograph of the new Old Inlet Breach taken 5 days after Hurricane Sandy (source: http://storms.ngs.noaa.gov/storms/sandy/). [larger version]

Above right: Bathymetry of breach showing a well-developed ebb shoal on the ocean side of the breach that is attached to the nearshore bar. [larger version]

LARC in the breach channel   LARC on the ebb shoal
On June 26, 2013, the USGS, in collaboration with USACE Field Research Facility, brought the LARC amphibious vehicle to Fire Island to collect a bathymetry survey of the breach channel, ebb shoal and adjacent coastline. Photos show the LARC surveying the breach (left - the LARC in the breach channel [larger version]; right – the LARC on the ebb shoal [larger version]). Research staff from the USGS New York Water Science Center conducted an ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) survey at the time of the bathymetric survey (shown in lower left corner of left photograph).

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