How Orange Beach in Alabama Was Spared During Hurricane Sally

Frederique Beroset MBA & M.S. in Biology

Article Highlight: SeaChase Condominiums in Orange Beach, Alabama, emerged with 90% of their dune intact due to the combined efforts of beach renourishment and consistent dune maintenance.

Key Takeaway: To maximize the potential return of beach renourishment, communities must install and maintain native vegetation to stabilize their sand placements and strengthen their protective dunes.

Fast Application: Sea oat growing season overlaps with hurricane season. The best time to naturally fortify and stabilize sand placements and existing dunes is during the summer. Strengthen the integrity of your protective dune by having our team stabilize bare areas with new vegetation, remove debris, remove dead plant material, and fertilize the existing vegetation.

How did One Community’s Dune Emerge 90% Intact after Hurricane Sally?

SeaShase Condominiums, located in Orange Beach, Alabama, took the direct hit of two massive hurricanes: Ivan in 2004 and Sally in 2020. Falling on the exact same day but 16 years apart, both hurricanes caused extensive structural damage to SeaChase Condominiums’ buildings, but the impact levels were different for the coastal ecosystem. While Hurricane Ivan completely eroded the original dune, Hurricane Sally only damaged 10% of their naturally-fortified dune, a system maintained by Dune Doctors. This enormous contrast in damage levels can be attributed primarily to the difference in the beach’s width and the shape of their protective dune after sustained restoration efforts. Hurricane Sally’s storm surge had a significantly more expansive beach to run across before reaching their healthy, established dune system. The width of the beach slowed down the surge while the dune’s gentle incline and strong core blocked it from moving inland. The result was zero surge-based flooding damage to the building and a dune system that was 90% intact.

Swipe through Before-and-After Pictures of Hurricane Sally Damage Restoration

What are the Benefits of Implementing a Maintenance Program for your Protective Dune System?

To follow in the successful footsteps of SeaChase Condominiums, implement a dune maintenance program to stabilize and optimize your sand placements and existing dune. A thriving, manicured landscape is the result of management. Likewise, a dune system that can mitigate the impact of storm surge is also the result of strategic, long-term maintenance. The barrier strength of a coastal dune is determined by the health of the vegetation that anchors the sand in place, continue reading about coastal vegetation. The plants’ complex root systems form interconnected webs that reach deep into the dune’s core. However, to sustain and encourage this expansive root growth, the vegetation requires an environment-specific maintenance program that provides it with necessary nutrients and care, learn more about dune maintenance. By investing in the vegetation, communities can strengthen the integrity of their coastal dune and increase their resiliency against storm surge. As the coastal ecosystem is a heavily regulated environment, first consult with Dune Doctors to develop a maintenance program specific to your property. 

Image of SeaChase Condominiums with review by Sarah de Lazzer

SeaChase Condominiums’ Coastal Stewardship & Alabama’s Commitment to their Coastal Communities

Located in Baldwin County, Alabama, SeaChase Condominiums benefited from the local government’s concerted efforts to renourish their coastline. Over the years, Baldwin County has implemented renourishment efforts to increase the beach’s width. Beach nourishment is a massive project that is highly efficient at combatting erosion but simultaneously expensive and not frequent. Within the scope of their regional and national budgets, Alabama’s government can only do so much to help protect water-front residents. Recognizing the critical importance of preserving and developing the sand given to them by Baldwin County authorities, SeaChase Condominiums’ HOA became proactive coastal stewards and restored their natural dune environment through a series of projects and ongoing maintenance with Dune Doctors. They acquired partial funding from the Alabama Coastal Heritage Foundation to have our coastal restoration experts stabilize their granted sand, build a new protective berm, and maintain the development of their entire protective dune system. 

What damage did Hurricane Sally Cause to SeaChase Condominiums? 

After Hurricane Sally’s direct hit to Baldwin County, the community experienced extensive structural damage from the powerful winds. Still, Alabama’s protective dunes were successful at blocking the storm surge from moving further inland for most condominiums and residential properties. Our Dune Maintenance Manager Larry Watson stated that SeaChase Condominiums lost a little over 50 sand fences and 10% of their original dune. Our maintenance team handled the minimal damage by installing vegetation in the eroded area and repairing the sand fences. This remarkable outcome results from SeaChase Condominiums’ proactive coastal stewardship and their commitment to building upon Alabama’s beach renourishment efforts. By complying with environmental regulations and maintaining close communication with local government, coastal communities can secure public benefits that help protect and preserve their water-front investments. 

Dune Doctors are the Leading Coastal Restoration Experts in Baldwin County, Alabama

Dune Doctors is a coastal erosion control firm specialized in planning, constructing, and maintaining native ecosystems and protective landscapes for government, commercial, and residential properties in Alabama. Dune Doctors works closely with Baldwin County officials and environmental agents from the Alabama Gulf State Parks to harvest and develop native dune-stabilizing plants. We use the native plants to restore dune ecosystems for condominiums in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and residential properties along Fort Morgan road. For over 20 years, Dune Doctors has preserved, protected, and maintained Alabama’s coastal communities by naturally fortifying their protective dune systems. Contact the Alabama Coastal Heritage Trust to request funding for private coastal restoration projects in Baldwin County. For sand fence installation, debris removal, dune fertilization, sea oat installation, sand addition, and environmental regulation consulting in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama, contact Dune Doctors today. Dune Doctors is proud to be the leading coastal restoration expert and coastal erosion control firm in Baldwin County, Alabama.  

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