Thursday, July 18, 2013

Long-buried New Jersey seawall spared coastal homes from Hurricane Sandy's wrath

Press release from the National Science Foundation: Picture two residential beach communities on the New Jersey shore: Bay Head and Mantoloking. They sit side-by-side in Ocean County on a narrow barrier island that separates the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay.

Before Hurricane Sandy landed on Oct. 29, 2012, a motorist traveling north would pass through Mantoloking into Bay Head. He or she would note few changes in residential development, dunes, beaches or shoreline.

The difference, however, was hidden under the sand. A long-forgotten, 4,134-feet-long seawall buried beneath the beach helped Bay Head weather Sandy's record storm surges and large waves, says geoscientist Jennifer Irish of Virginia Tech. The stone structure dates to 1882. Its reappearance in 2012 surprised many area residents, underscoring the difficulties transient communities have in planning for future threats along their shores, Irish says.

"It's amazing that a seawall built nearly 150 years ago, then naturally hidden under beach sands and forgotten, would have a major effect under the conditions in which it was originally designed to perform," says H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences.

..."This finding should have major implications for coastal planning, as sea level rises and storms increase in intensity in response to global warming," says Lane. The results, published online this week in the journal Coastal Engineering, illustrate the need for multi-levels of beach protection in coastal communities, Irish and colleagues say. Irish is the paper's lead author...

Post-Sandy in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, shot by Jacopo Werther, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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