Storm Impacts - Coastal System Change at Fire Island, New York

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USGS coastal research utilizes an integrated approach to measure long- and short-term changes to the Fire Island barrier island system, including open ocean/marine, nearshore, barrier island, and estuarine environments.

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Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was a unique storm for Fire Island because the metrics we typically use to measure storm impacts didn’t capture the magnitude of the event. USGS developed new metrics and models to quantify storm impacts and subsequent recovery.

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Research

USGS measures and predicts storm-related coastal change to inform decision-makers and managers about impacts to people, infrastructure, and cultural and natural resources.

Hurricane Sandy

Other Storm Impacts to Fire Island

Science Center Objects

Fire Island is vulnerable to considerable storm activity year-round from both hurricanes and nor’easters. Storms are important drivers of coastal change in barrier island settings such as Fire Island. Larger storms carry sediment to the interior of the island via overwash, helping to create new habitat and build island resilience by adding back barrier width and interior elevation. Storms also cause flooding and erosion of beaches and dunes, creating hazards for ocean-front property, communities, and infrastructure. Over the last century, data collection efforts have resulted in a number of pre- and post-storm datasets that have allowed USGS researchers to quantify storm impacts from a variety of moderate to major storms. 

Two oblique aerial photographs of the Otis Pike Wilderness Breach at Fire Island, New York

Oblique aerial photographs of Pelican Island and Fire Island, New York. The view is looking northwest across Fire Island towards Great South Bay. This location is within Fire Island National Seashore near Old Inlet—a very narrow portion of the island that has experienced breaching in previous large storms. The island breached during Sandy, creating a new inlet. Despite the breach, the fishing shack (yellow arrow) remained standing. Credit: Karen Morgan, USGS

Two oblique aerial photographs of Neponsit, New York.

Oblique aerial photographs of Neponsit, New York. The view is looking northwest across Rockaway Peninsula, adjacent to New York Harbor. Sand was washed from the beach into the streets, and towards the bayside of the island, and several rows of ocean-facing houses were destroyed or damaged. The yellow arrow in each image points to the same feature. Credit: Karen Morgan, USGS

 

Hurricane Sandy

Resources and funding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy provided the opportunity to study the impacts of and recovery from a major storm event at Fire Island in a comprehensive way.

Other Storm Impacts to Fire Island

Since the late 1990s, USGS has been conducting research to quantify the impact from other hurricanes and nor'easters on the beaches and dunes at Fire Island.