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Hurricane Sandy Swept Away More Than Half of Fire Island, Report Says

Hurricane Sandy swept away 54 percent of Fire Island, part of Long Island’s barrier islands, according to a study from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Only 14 percent of the sand from New York's Fire Island was washed inland. The majority was carried offshore, LiveScience reported.

While 18 percent of the sand from the 75-mile barrier islands has been replenished, it is still missing 40 percent of the sand it had before.The beach has moved 189 feet inland, according to Newser.

"We surveyed the beach system again in June and we're seeing even more recovery," said Cheryl Hapke, a geologist for the USGS and lead study author.

Beaches can recover relatively quickly, but Hapke told LiveScience that sand dunes take much longer to replenish. Sand dunes are, in fact, the island’s best defense against a major storm. 

"In areas where the dunes weren't completely demolished, we have seen substantial sand start to pile up from the wind on those dunes," Hapke said. "Dunes take years to build back up, whereas beaches take a season. Wind is a longer process than one driven by water and waves."

"Overall, Hurricane Sandy profoundly impacted the morphology of Fire Island and resulted in an extremely low elevation, low relief configuration that has left the barrier island vulnerable to future storms, although the beach is likely to experience continued recovery in the form of volume gains, the dunes will take years to rebuild,” the study said, according to Newser.

Rising beach elevation is protection against storm surge. Anything standing between inhabited areas and the water will slow down a hurricane. One of most detrimental aspects of vanishing wetlands in Louisiana, which was pummelled by Hurricane Katrina almost 8 years ago today, is the fact that the wetlands acted as a buffer between New Orleans and the high-wind storms.

The barrier islands should shift and migrate depending on sea levels, Hapke said. While it shifted inland after Sandy, she believes the storm damaged actually moved the islands to where they can best protest the shore in the future.

Sources: Newser, LiveScience


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