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May 7, 2014 10:02 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Minor Storm Washes Over Barrier Island, Highlights Threat To Hampton Bays

May 7, 2014 10:02 AM

Southampton Town officials are calling for an expedited effort to raise Dune Road, and bolster the beaches that separate it from the Atlantic, after waves riding a high tide combined with a minor storm system pushed saltwater over the meager dunes just east of Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays late last month, flooding the highway.

The fact that the ocean washed across the barrier beach under relatively tame conditions, experts said this week, highlights the vulnerability of the stretch of road to a full-scale breach—and the potential formation of an inlet—that could threaten neighborhoods on the mainland should a strong storm hit the South Fork.

“This is the second time this has happened since the new year,” Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said, regarding the widespread flooding of Dune Road. “The beach may build this summer—that will help a little—but at the end of the day there is no dune there, and once it gets over the beach, there’s nothing going to stop it. That’s the spot it wants to come through.”

Coastal engineering consultant Aram Terchunian confirmed that the stretch of beach between Tiana and Ponquogue beaches is suffering from a severely anemic sand supply and has not seen its natural dunes rebuild after Hurricane Sandy flattened them in 2012. That hurricane pounded the coast, eroding the protective dunes and burying most of Dune Road under several feet of sand.

“April 26, it was just a cold front, nothing was really that bad,” Mr. Gregor said about the most recent breach. “I was watching the wave heights and thought we were going to be okay. But that area is just so damn low. It’s got nothing there to hold it back.”

Mr. Terchunian said that a recent mapping of the south shore coastline by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows that the area around Tiana Beach to be extremely low, relative to sea level, and vulnerable to washovers. It also suggests that the barrier island is prone to a potential breach in a severe storm, like a hurricane. He said he planned to show images of the most recent washover to federal officials.

A major beach nourishment effort has been approved by the Army Corps for the Tiana Beach area, but that work did not qualify for the same emergency funding after Hurricane Sandy that was dedicated to a project to rebuild beaches just a couple miles to the east, adjacent to Shinnecock Inlet, and for another project set to start this fall in the Village of West Hampton Dunes. The Tiana project is to be done as part of a broader $700 million effort to bolster beaches and stave off erosion along the entire south shore coastline, but could still be years from mobilization.

Were an inlet to form along the barrier island near Tiana, Mr. Gregor noted, it would pose a severe threat for storm surge flooding in those densely populated neighborhoods that are adjacent to Shinnecock Bay in Hampton Bays.

Mr. Gregor said that for the short term, a temporary dune should be constructed along the 1,000 feet of beachhead that is most vulnerable. A stout sand dune would slow the advance of waves, at least during minor storms, though it would probably offer little protection during a hurricane. He said engineers working for the town have estimated that about 50,000 cubic yards of sand—about 75,000 tons—would be needed to construct the temporary barrier.

For the longer term, the town’s plan continues to be to raise Dune Road by almost two feet. A section of road just west of last week’s washover, which was rebuilt higher and atop sand that had washed over during Hurricane Sandy, did not flood during the most recent breach.

The town has applied for $7.8 million in federal post-Sandy aid to help pay for the raising of the road, but New York State, which controls the apportionment of the federal money, has been slow to identify what projects will be funded.

“The whole reimbursement thing is going at a snail’s pace,” Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. “We’ve been planning this for years, it’s shovel ready. We have a local match in our budget ... $1 million. What’s missing is the release of the funds. This now just speaks to how important it is.”

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I have an old school map of Suffolk County from the 1850's, there was one similar in the Whaling Museum in Sag Harbor, and there is an inlet at precisely this spot, with no inlet further to the East...This speaks to the folly of building on a narrow barrier beach...and insuring those structures for millions of dollars apiece.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on May 8, 14 3:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
Anyone who has "millions of dollars" of insurance on ocean-front homes must have private insurance (self-paying) which would cost an absolute fortune, and likely not be cost-effective IMO.

Your general point about the folly remains . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 8, 14 3:49 PM
Not sure what defines private versus public insurance. The reality is to insure a house on the water is brutal unless you have a serious deductible like $50K. Sounds silly but the math works. The premiums are so tough out on LI that it actually makes sense to NOT insure. Yes that is right. You are truly rolling the dice but depending on your ownership horizon and your belief about being wiped out. No insurance may make sense.

BTW you wouldn't leave a million dollars at the high ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on May 8, 14 11:34 PM
2 members liked this comment
Because you want to live on the ocean and can afford the loss . . .

Welcome to The Hamptons!

Let the Summer Games begin . . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 9, 14 4:27 PM
Let's eliminate all those multi million dollar houses along the barrier beach, and watch what happens to our school taxes.
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on May 9, 14 6:33 AM
One word: Jetties
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on May 9, 14 9:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
For all of Long Island, would work.

Massively expensive, but the benefits would justify?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 9, 14 9:23 AM
Yep, from Montauk to Manhattan.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on May 9, 14 9:26 AM
didnt mean to click like. Jetties build up and protect where built but help to speed erosion in unprotected areas of the beach. Its very tough to slow mother nature
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on May 9, 14 4:14 PM
And if there were no "unprotected areas of the beach?"

Where does the logic lead . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 9, 14 4:28 PM
Two words: Jersey Shore.

Some NJ beaches have jetties (groins, actually) every few yards, to counter the effect that razza describes: jetties speed erosion, so they put jetties in between jetties to stop that erosion. Pretty soon, the beach is all jetties. We don't want that.

Alternative? Renourishment, or less expensively, restrict building, restrict rebuilding, move houses back. No one cares if Mother Nature moves the beach around a bit when there are no structures on it. ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on May 13, 14 10:57 AM
This Is What a Holy S*** Moment for Global Warming Looks Like

According to two new studies, the collapse of much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may now be irreversible. That could ultimately mean 10 feet of sea level rise.

By Chris Mooney, Mon. May 12, 2014 5:07 PM PDT

If you truly understand global warming, then you know it's all about the ice. That's what matters. Planet Earth has not always had great ice sheets at the poles, of the sort that currently exist atop Greenland ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 13, 14 5:54 AM
Over the next 200 years, did they say? I missed the timeline, but thought I heard 2214 as the end date projection. For people who have been watching global warming, this is actually old news of sorts . . .

We are f . . . . . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 13, 14 6:26 AM
It depends. The release of methane hydrate from the ocean floor and the tundra could accelerate the timetable.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 13, 14 4:21 PM
Thanks. In any event the key word which keeps coming up is "inevitable" IMO. Not if but when.

Long-range family planners might want to consider moving to much higher ground.

Assuming a worse future does not await us.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 13, 14 4:35 PM
What most people fail to realize is that most of the carbon we have been burning was created during "The Great Dying". Most of the coal we have burned was created long before that mas extinction during a time in this planet's history when trees evolved, but organisms which exists today that break detritus down did not.

Adding all that carbon to the atmosphere will turn this planet into a hothouse once more. The question is when, and will this planet end up a sulfuric acid laden, rainy ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 13, 14 11:24 PM
That last sentence hardly sounds "scientific."

Thomas Painter of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has said that Box "...has one very important quality as a scientist,” namely that he "is willing to say crazy stuff and push the boundaries of conventional wisdom.”

The ends justify the means?
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 14, 14 12:20 AM
. . . if only, perhaps, to rattle the "conventional wisdom" and budge it outside of its myopic field of view?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 14, 14 4:47 AM
For about 3 and a half seconds Mr. Z almost sounded like he knew what he was talking about. If a breach of the dunes by the mother ocean portends dooms day, we would be long gone. Live life to the fullest - the earth shall withstand anything you can throw at her. Moriches Bay Inlet was caused by a nor'easter in 1931. Shinnecock Bay caused by the Hurricane in 1938. It's nothing new and nothing extraordinary.
By bjoners (13), southampton on May 14, 14 6:44 AM
Have you ever seen a pink lake?

It's because of hydrogen sulfide. Look into it, and it's consequences before you doubt my last sentence...
May 14, 14 10:49 PM appended by Mr. Z
Just because the planet survives, doesn't mean the life on it will. There is a chance we could destroy all life on this planet by repeating the conditions which led to the "Great Dying". Which has a greater impact on air temperature? Ice pack, or open water? Less ice pack would lead to a cold, late spring.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 14, 14 10:49 PM
Yes, I've seen a pink lake but it was in the Oakland Coliseum during a Grateful Dead New Years Eve show. Luckily, it changed to purple then blue.
By bjoners (13), southampton on May 15, 14 8:51 AM
My family has been here for more than 300 years, before "global climate change" was a phrase. They didn't build their homes near the water because people had the brains back then to realize that you can't hold back an ocean or a river or even a storm-swollen creek. Common sense disappeared somewhere in the mid 20th century, when greed became good.
People with money and power now believe they can control natural forces. In olden times, people made sacrifices to their gods to keep the storms ...more
By btdt (449), water mill on May 14, 14 9:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
People with money and power can control natural forces. You may want to look into HAARP, the Popeye Project (that's not a joke) and all the rest regarding the proposed Weather Modification Operations and Research Board.
By bjoners (13), southampton on May 15, 14 8:59 AM
Global warming or no, there are no homes on the barrier beach in Hampton Bays, so no taxes are paid into schools from there. There was a bar, now bought by CPF and its taxes are no more, further east more bars and marinas down at the inlet that the Feds keep dredging that has two massive jetties keeping it open.

My point was: this is an area where sands shift. If the inlet wants to happen, there's not a lot that will stop it.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on May 16, 14 6:02 PM