Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM
HURRICANE SANDY: DID BEACH NOURISHMENT SAVE NEW JERSEY?
One important narrative that emerged from the post-storm damage reports following the impact of Hurricane Sandy along the New Jersey shore was the anecdotal success of beach and dune engineering. In an effort to provide a first order test of the hypothesis that beach and dune building projects did, in fact, provide storm protection, we initiated a detailed field and GIS-based analysis of the damage pattern following Sandy along the New Jersey shore. With an understanding of this complexity, we have sought to provide an initial, statistical test of the role that beach and dune building may have played during Sandy. Using our comprehensive US beach nourishment database, we identified and mapped all nourishment episodes in NJ between 2000 and 2012. Our analysis shows that approximately 45% of the New Jersey shoreline has been nourished since 2000. In addition to beach nourishment data, we also obtained MHW shoreline data from the NJ Bureau of GIS and county parcel data from the NJ Geographic Information Network and examined variables such and distance between development and mean high water (MHW). We used version 28 of the publicly-available FEMA Modeling Task Force (MOTF) data for property damage estimates. MOTF parcel-level data divides damage into 4 classes: affected, minor, major and destroyed. Focusing only on ocean beaches between Cape May in the south and Sandy Hook in the north, we drew a 250-foot buffer inland from MHW that contained 291 damaged structures (according to FEMA). Of these, 155 (53%) were located behind beaches that had not been nourished since 2000 while 136 (47%) were behind beaches that had received nourishment. Although our preliminary analysis shows a slight correlation between beach nourishment and reduced damage, many other natural processes and anthropomorphic factors that contribute to or mitigate property damage during a large storm such as along-shore variability in geology and geomorphology; along-shore variability in storm meteorology and oceanography; shoreline stabilization efforts and variability in the density, type, strength and elevation of buildings must be considered and assessed before we can say with any certainty that beach nourishment did, in fact, reduce property damage during Sandy.