Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Hurricane Sandy Beach Response and Recovery at Fire Island, New York: Shoreline, Beach Profile Data, and Breach Shoreline Data: October 2012 to June 2016

April 18, 2017

Fire Island, New York is the site of a long term coastal morphologic change and processes project conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). One of the objectives of the project was to understand the morphologic evolution of the barrier system on a variety of time scales (months-years-decades-centuries). In response to Hurricane Sandy (October 2012), this effort continued with the intention of resolving storm impacts, post-storm beach response, and recovery. The day before Hurricane Sandy made landfall a USGS field team conducted surveys at Fire Island National Seashore (FIIS) to quantify the pre-storm morphologic state of the beach and dunes. The area was re-surveyed after the storm, as soon as access to the island was possible. In order to fully capture the recovery of the barrier system, the USGS Hurricane Sandy Supplemental Fire Island Study was established to include regular surveying in the weeks, months, and years following the storm.

As part of the USGS Hurricane Sandy Supplemental Fire Island Study, the beach is monitored periodically to enable better understanding of post-Sandy recovery. The alongshore state of the beach is recorded using a differential global positioning system (DGPS) to collect data around the mean high water (MHW; 0.46 meter North American Vertical Datum of 1988) to derive a shoreline, and the cross-shore response and recovery are measured along a series of 15 profiles (Figure 1). Monitoring continued in the weeks following Hurricane Sandy with additional monthly collection through April 2013, and repeat surveys every 2-3 months thereafter until October 2014. Additional bi-annual surveys have been collected through September 2016. Beginning in October 2014 the USGS also began collecting a shoreline at the Wilderness breach, in the location of Old Inlet, in the Otis Pike High Dunes Wilderness area. The shoreline collected was an approximation of the MHW shoreline. The operator walked along an estimated MHW elevation above the water line and below the berm crest, using knowledge of tides and local conditions to interpret a consistent shoreline. Shorelines were collected on the east and west segments of the Wilderness breach to monitor the evolution of the breach.

For further information regarding data collection and/or processing methods refer to the metadata and to the USGS Data Series Report 2015-931 (