Nor'easters Could Spell Disaster for Vulnerable Sandy-Ravaged Coast

By Jillian MacMath, Staff Writer
October 30, 2013; 4:49 AM ET
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Bulldozers push sand up from the ocean to form a dune in the North Beach Haven section of Long Beach Island as beach replenishment and cleanup continue in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Long Beach Township, N.J. (AP Photo/Joe Epstein)

Though New Jersey's Sandy-ravaged beaches reopened in time for the summer, a familiar feature was missing from many: the dunes which once barricaded the coastal towns and protected them from the ocean's threats.

One year later, amid the season capable of producing nasty nor'easters, storm-wary residents are wondering why the dunes have not been reconstructed along stretches of the now-delicate coastline.

When Sandy made landfall one year ago, the unprecedented storm surge wreaked havoc on the dune system that stretched from Monmouth to Ocean and Cape May counties.

Sandy was an intense hybrid storm, part tropical and part nor'easter, which took an unusual left turn resulting in extensive damage to the eastern United States.

Nor'easters are notorious for producing severe coastal flooding and erosion. Without a line of defense, another strong one could spell disaster for the still-recovering towns.

"A regular coastal nor'easter could be devastating to coastal New Jersey right now. These storms can be just as powerful as a strong tropical storm or minimal hurricane," Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said. "They are very vulnerable right now."

This year, the risk for these coastal storms will arrive beginning in January but will become more likely during February and March.

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A report released by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force revealed that the beaches which had a dune system or other protective barrier in place during Sandy fared better than those that did not.

"We saw up and down the coastlines in New York and New Jersey that towns that had dunes were protected whereas towns that didn't have dunes or seawalls or other protective measures got destroyed," Michael Passante, N.J. state director for the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, said.

The Army Corps of Engineers has created a structured program to implement short-term and longer-term projects focusing on risk reduction in the North Atlantic region.

"Construction has begun and has gone quite a ways toward restoring projects that we had in place when Sandy struck," according to Joe Forcina, chief of the Sandy Coastal Management Division at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers has been given $2.7 billion to implement 18 new projects in the region focusing on risk reduction.

Despite the plans, frustration is mounting in communities that are not satisfied with what's been accomplished one year since the storm.

Many have seen a rise in premiums from the National Flood Insurance Program, based on their susceptibility to flooding. They argue that having dunes or other protective barriers in place would take their homes out of the higher-risk flood planes.

"I want to see sand being pumped on our beaches today," George Kasimos, founder of Stop FEMA Now, told the crowd that gathered to protest the rise in insurance premiums in Seaside Park on Sept. 29, 2013.

"If they raise the dunes, we're going to be protected. We all know that. We need the dunes; we need the dunes more than anything."

Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Jillian MacMath at, follow her on Twitter @Accu_Jillian or Google+. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.


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