Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Rhode Island Beach Before and After Sandy

Public access to most of our local beach area is blocked by the National Guard, but this weekend I was able to walk a two mile stretch of the beach to see the Hurricane Sandy impact.

Those of you who read Just One Donna regularly know that I love the beach.  I feel very lucky to live so close to the ocean's beauty and can't imagine ever living too far away.  We, New Englanders, are used to storms and the resulting beach erosion. It seems to come with the territory.  We check our beaches at the end of each winter to see whether or not we lost a significant amount of our precious beachfront to Mother Nature's fury.  Sandy was much more than our usual nor'easter.  The media dubbed it a super storm.   A storm of that magnitude was bound to wreak havoc.

Sadly, many of the homes and businesses in the area sustained significant damage or were destroyed by Sandy.  Assessment of the full extent of the damage is underway.  Today's focus is specifically on the storm's impact on the beach that draws people and businesses to the area.

This is one of my favorite views of the beach.  This is a before photo showing sand fences and the dunes on the left...

An Eastward View Taken December 2010

And here is the same spot after Sandy where the dunes have been replaced by large rocks and rubble...

After Sandy, November, 2012

Sand dunes line the beaches in southern Rhode Island, gently sloping upwards for six to ten feet as you can see in this before picture.

Before Picture Showing the Dunes and Piping Plover Nesting Area

After Sandy, many of those dunes are gone and there is no longer a protective barrier between the water and the land.

After Sandy the Dunes are Gone

Those dunes served to protect the land and homes beyond the shore and provided habitat for for shoreline wildlife, like the endangered osprey...

Before Sandy This Nest was High Amongst the Dunes
After Sandy this same nest is standing on the flattened beach.

After Sandy-No Dunes

In this before picture, a little farther down the beach, you can see the sand dune and the sand fences in the background behind this driftwood teepee...

Before Sandy Dunes and Sand Fences Separated the Beach and a Pond

The ocean has destroyed the dunes and breached the beach to connect to a pond.  You can see that work is already underway to restore the balance.

After Sandy the Ocean has Connected to the Pond
What does all this mean about the health of the shoreline?  I'm not an expert on the shoreline habitat, so I can't provide answers.  Another large storm is predicted in the next 24-48 hours with wind gust expected to be in the 50-60 mph range.  Will more damage follow?  Only time will tell.

Some links to information about beaches and dunes:

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