Report on 2009 Nor'easter

Anyone reading the Times weather page in the ten days leading up to Sunday, October 18 had an excuse for being anxious. The maritime forecast consistently reported winds from the northeast anywhere between 10 and 30 mph, “with higher gusts,” for more than a week straight.  Those winds not only pummeled the newly restored beaches, it made Fire Island Inlet, already far from efficient at draining Great South Bay because of sand clogging the channel, even more of a problem: the tides flow in but don’t completely drain, so the next tide piles up behind the first, and so on. Television news showed places like Freeport and Bayville on the bay’s north side coping with serious street flooding as a result.

But tides piling up in the bay pose another threat as well: if there is a low, flat area (and Fire Island has several of them) once there is enough water in the bay it won’t wait around for the tide to go out, it will seek the quickest way to the ocean, and that means through the island. It didn’t happen this time but it sure pointed up the need for the Corps of Engineers and New York State to get together on an emergency program for maintenance dredging at the inlets, especially the Fire Island Inlet.

As for the ocean side, Fire Island did not escape unscathed; and one shudders to think of what might have happened but for the 2009 community nourishment projects. From east to west, Bob Spencer (Davis Park) reported very high tides and mainland flooding. On the ocean side, he reports severe scarping in the persistent “erosion hot spot” that afflicts about 500 feet toward the western part of that community. Unless a period of westerly winds rebuilds the area, more nor’easters “could be real nasty,” Bob says.

Fire Island Pines experienced severe erosion at the eastern end, according to Jay Pagano. One set of stairs was lost. In another context, Steve Keehn, the ’09 project engineer, noted that the eastern ends of all of the projects are exposed to northeast winds, and the experience at the Pines seems to bear this out.

Ocean Bay Park came through “in pretty good shape”, according to Steven Jaffee. Stairs and fencing are all still standing, although a lot of sand was lost, he added.  He noted that Seaview (which adjoins Ocean Bay Park to the west) seems to have lost several hundred feet of sand fencing.

Ocean Beach had flooding up as far as Midway, Love the Plumber reports. There was a foot or more of water near the water tower, but the area near the court house was dry by comparison.

Robbins Rest, to the west of Ocean Beach, was very pleased with the performance of its new bulkhead. Still, water came up from the bay about 100 yards, the Association reported.  

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