How Several Seaside Communities Outsmarted Hurricane Sandy

Frederique Beroset MBA & M.S. in Biology

Hurricanes are the worst enemy of coastal communities. Millions of dollars have been spent researching and designing ways to protect coastal properties from the devastating damage of these storms. Seawalls have been built, homes have been raised on pilings, buildings have been fortified—all in an effort to ward off the effects of hurricane-force winds and deadly storm surge. Sadly, these measures often fail. Many communities, that had invested in a wide range of defenses, suffered from extensive damage all along the Eastern seaboard when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.

However, several communities on the New Jersey coast emerged relatively unscathed (save damage from winds) from the impact of Sandy—among them Midway Beach, South Seaside Park, and Bradley Beach. The locals attribute surviving the storm, with minimal damage, to the sand dunes (berms) that lined their coast.

Although Hurricane Sandy eroded a good portion of these dunes, the water didn’t breach the berms and the properties landward of them were spared. For these lucky communities, rebuilding their protective dunes was priority #1 for good reason. Even though the sand dunes were the only line of defense against the raging storm, they effectively stopped the storm surge from reaching the homes and businesses.

Sand dunes, alone, cannot offer 100% protection to a coastal area during a hurricane, but there is truth in the adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The rebuilding and maintaining of sand dunes may seem initially expensive, but the cost is a fraction compared to the billions of dollars in lost revenue for seaside businesses.

Watch the video where Bradley Beach Operating Supervisor Rich Bianchi proudly describes the results of the town’s protective berm construction: “We’re probably the only town where you can walk on the boardwalk right now.” He credits the 15 x 25 ft sand dune, built in 1996, from sparing his town a similar fate to beach communities located only a few miles away.

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