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Nov 17, 2009 7:06 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Nor'easter takes toll on beaches

Nov 17, 2009 7:06 PM

Towering waves battered portions of the oceanfront during last weekend’s intense nor’easter, one of the strongest and longest to hit the area in years, washing away dunes, undermining roads and threatening oceanfront homes and other structures.

In parts of East Hampton, Bridgehampton and Quogue, storm-driven waves erased the beach and ate away as much as 50 feet of dunes.

In Wainscott, the pavement at the end of Beach Lane collapsed into the wash of the surf during the height of the storm on Saturday.

In Bridgehampton, homes along Surfside Drive that once had wide dunes between them and the ocean now peek out onto the beach over narrow bands of dune grass. In Quogue, the sand and dunes were scoured out from beneath the municipal beach pavilion, which now hangs precariously over the thin strip of sand between it and the sea.

“Some places the dunes have eroded to the point that some old foundations are exposed,” said William Mack, a coastal geologist with First Coastal, a coastal development consulting firm in Westhampton. “It was an intense storm. It was a massive amount of wind feeding that massive low just offshore. That generated these extreme wave heights through at least four or five tide cycles.”

Waves on the ocean reached 14 feet high along the beach, Mr. Mack said. Winds from the storm sustained near 30 miles per hour from late Thursday night through Saturday night, according to Richard Hendrickson, a National Weather Service observer in Bridgehampton, and gusted over 60 miles per hour throughout Friday and Saturday.

The area may have been spared even worse erosion because the heart of the storm, remnants of one-time Hurricane Ida, passed to the south of Long Island, so the strong winds stayed out of the northeast and blew against the waves advancing ashore from the southeast, somewhat lessening the strength and speed of their impact.

Mr. Mack said erosion was focused on specific weak spots, where “erosion waves” have kept the sand barriers from building up. Erosion waves are areas where gaps in offshore sandbars allow larger waves to reach the shoreline. Resulting riptides carry sand away from the beach, accelerating erosion. The erosion hot-spots tend to migrate to the west over many years.

Windy weather this summer left beaches in some areas without their usually deep ribbon of protective sand at the outset of the fall and winter storm season. And, after years of relatively gentle winters, this season has gotten off to a turbulent start. Two nor’easters hit in succeeding weekends in October and this 
weekend’s storm left the area 
with a severely handicapped beachfront to weather the winter 
behind.

“We’ve had a good five- to eight-year run where we haven’t had a really bad storm or series of storms,” said Aram Terchunian, also a coastal geologist with First Coastal. “We’ll get beach recovery over the next couple weeks but the problem is, we’re going in to the winter storm season with these very narrow beaches. They are not going to repair to the point they need to be for the winter.”

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if this was in montauk bob rogers would hve more than tape across the road end!doesn't look to safe from the photos.
By asurest (117), easthampton on Nov 18, 09 6:11 PM
Um, maybe stop building homes so close to the ocean? The true locals (Shinnecocks) knew not to do this...
By Undertow (64), Southampton on Nov 18, 09 6:31 PM
My family has been on Long island since the 1600s and we never built houses on the beach. The only things that were ever on the beach were temporary shacks used by local fishermen and when they got washed away, that was it.

Something happened to some human brains in the middle of the 20th century which caused certain people to believe they had the power to prevent water from coming up during storms simply by not wanting it to happen. And something happened to the towns -- they became ...more
By btdt (393), water mill on Nov 19, 09 10:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
i have no sympathy for people who build houses close to the water. They are also polluting the environment with their chemicals of every sort. they don't care. it is all about them not the Earth.
By local (106), north sea on Nov 20, 09 7:45 PM
It's only gonna get worse. Global Warming people, the planet is being destroyed. A few lost beachhouses is the least of our problems.
By icecreamman (287), Southampton on Nov 21, 09 9:15 AM
The ocean makes a poor neighbor. Global warming??!! Temps have been falling for the last 10 years.
By bigfresh (2713), north sea on Nov 22, 09 10:54 AM
Firecracker 8K run & 3 Mile Walk Southampton Village 4th of July weekend