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Hurricane Matthew: Predictions, observations, and an analysis of coastal change

October 16, 2019

Hurricane Matthew, the strongest Atlantic hurricane of the 2016 hurricane season, made land-fall south of McClellanville, S.C., around 1500 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on October 8, 2016. Hurricane Matthew affected the States of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina along the U.S. Atlantic coastline. Numerous barrier islands were breached, and the erosion of beaches and dunes occurred along most of the South Atlantic coast. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) fore-casted potential coastal-change effects—including dune erosion and overwash that can threaten coastal resources and infrastructure—to assist with pre-storm management decisions. Following the storm, oblique aerial photography was collected, and lidar topographic survey missions were flown. These two datasets were used to document the changes that resulted from the storm and to validate coastal change forecasts. Comparisons of pre- and post-storm photographs were used to characterize the nature, extent, and spatial variability of hurricane-induced coastal changes. Analyses of pre- and post-storm lidar eleva-tions were used to quantify magnitudes of change in shoreline positions, dune elevations, and beach volumes. Erosion was observed along the coast from Florida to North Carolina; however, the coastal response exhibited extensive spatial variability, as would be expected over such a large region.