So What Really Happened In North Beach?

In the immediate aftermath of the Hurricane Sandy, I was concerned that poor little North Beach was the poster child of destruction on the Island. The first 4 videos and photos I saw were all from North Beach, and they looked awful. 4 feet of sand in the street, cars buried, and refrigerators floating around. Soon Holgate photos appeared and suddenly I was not so worried about North Beach. Some good, on the ground recon suggested and proved that plenty of properties were standing strong with almost no visible damage whatsoever.

Now that North Beach is thick with National Guard and off limits for even the Grab-n-Go (TM) event, I’m beyond curious.

Damage Readings
Damage Readings

Based on the video, photographic, and on-the-ground-report evidence, the above map of North Beach shows my best guess. It looks like Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge was just high enough to breach the dune in North Beach. Our stronger, taller dunes just barely stopped the sea, and our weaker ones were demolished as waves just topped them, then destroyed them. The amount of sand in the Bouvy throughout North Beach suggests the water topped most of the dune, though many spots appear to have sent no more than a few inches of ocean water through the oceanside properties.

There are 3 spots of concern.

First, the Public Access. Sandy appropriately thought this was her best way to enter and exit North Beach. I am assuming that the lower dune and wide opening left a clear channel for water to flow down unobstructed. They are currently using the access now to push the sand back to the beach, so it is well plowed over and tough to tell.

The other two points are the extreme North & South ends of North Beach.

The tail end of Surf City just before North Beach has a crazy amount of sand extending deep into the Island. I have to assume a strong breach occurred there. This area is a favorite surfing area. It is known for a nice break and it is just at the point where the Island curves slightly. This is where I often see Dolphin, and more recently Whales, turn out to sea and disappear. This is also the border of Surf City’s replenished beaches.

It seems highly probable to me that the storm surge would get some extra lift here against the great bar, and also getting wedged by the larger, stronger Surf City beach and dune. I would guess that more water poured through this area. So Southern North Beach might have some problems. On the good news side, very few videos start that far south, making me think the damage becomes more apparent as you head North through North Beach.

Video evidence suggests that the worst damage occurred on the two beaches furthest North. Heading South from Harvey Cedars, we call these “Transition Beach” and “Pebble Beach”. My guess is that this is the real problem area. This area too has a very strong wedge formed by the end of the Harvey Cedars replenishment. Transition Beach is WIDE but very shallow. It is basically a huge sandbar. It seems probable that the surge could travel very fast over this section, while getting a boost from the “wedge” at the end of Harvey Cedars, and have the strength to absolutely pummel the dune. On the videos this is the area where you see refrigerators, pieces of deck, and lots of debris. The few shots I’ve seen suggest that a few oceanfronts in this area look Holgate-style; standing too tall on their pilings with the ground floors gone.  If anyone knows the big, boxy, lime green Oceanfront in Northern North Beach, I’m pretty sure that house (at least) took the hit I am describing. I would assume the houses behind it suffer structural damage as well.

This would be an obvious area for gas leaks. Houses in that condition are being “braced” in Holgate so I am assuming they are doing the same thing here.

A local reported in the Sandpaper that it appeared “80% of the homes on the oceanside in North Beach appear to have structural damage”. That’s scary but I don’t think it is accurate. I’m sure it looked that way walking dazed through the area just after the storm, debris floating in the streets and what-have-you. I have seen many photos of homes in the 1030-1060 area that appear whole. It seems clear the worst damage starts above 1090, with maybe some occasional problems in southern North Beach too.

On the Bay side, I have only heard verified reports of 3 homes in central North Beach: all were safe at 2.5 foot elevation. It appears bayside flooding was in the few-inches area, at least in central North Beach.

If anyone reading this does a Grab-and-Go in HC, LL, HBH, or BL tomorrow please take a look (or several) oceanside in North Beach and let me know if this is accurate. I would expect a few damaged properties right when you enter North Beach, mostly messy and see-straight-to-the-dunes but no real damage up to about 1090, then lots of damage and repair activity going on.