Jersey Shore braces for possible flooding, beach erosion from storm
A nor’easter is expected to pound the Garden State with heavy rain and strong winds. There is concern the storm could cause significant beach erosion.
Residents in many shore towns are being urged by local officials to move cars to higher ground, secure items left in backyards, and be prepared with emergency kits just in case the power goes out.
Seaside Heights Mayor Anthony Vaz is keeping his fingers crossed.
He said sand dunes have been built up along the boardwalk and the local Office of Emergency Management is on standby, monitoring the storm.
“We’ve got our vehicles gassed up in case we’ve got to do something extremely drastic, so I feel good that we’re prepared. But you never know the seriousness of a storm.”
He said crews were hard at work yesterday building up dunes.
Meteorologist Dan Zarrow is still looking at two scenarios for the storm, one which would bring minor to moderate coastal flooding, 40+ mph winds, lots of rain, and just a few inches of snow accumulation among the highest hilltops in northwest New Jersey.
Another scenario that would cause major coastal flooding and blizzard-like conditions to the roads, with 60+ mph winds.
Zarrow said the wintry mix moved in earlier than he expected.
"The question is whether it sticks and accumulates," Zarrow said.
“We moved the sand as close as we can to the boardwalk so it doesn’t go through the underpass into the street. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it’s a prevention.”
Thomas Herrington, the associate director of the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University, noted nor’easters at this time of year can be particularly strong.
“Storms like this in the past have devastated the coast of New Jersey. Prior to Sandy, all the big storms that have impacted our coast in terms of erosion have been nor’easters,” he said.
“This is the season where we start to see changes in temperatures across the country, from winter to spring, and these real powerful storms feed off of the temperature changes in the atmosphere.”
He said coastal communities that have built up sand dunes probably won’t suffer as much damage from the storm as they otherwise would. But large storms and waves can wash away dunes.
Herrington said the amount of erosion caused by this nor’easter will depend on its exact movement.
“The closer it gets to the coast the more impacts we’ll have and the more erosion. If it moves far enough off shore, the winds and the waves won’t have as dramatic an effect," he said.
Jon Miller, a Stevens Institute of Technology coastal engineering professor, said nor’easters can be damaging but "this year hasn’t been particularly stormy, so beaches are ready to absorb a blow.”
He said the hope is this storm, with winds out of the north, “will deliver more of a glancing blow and not a head-on blow.”
Miller said major beach replenishment and dune build-up projects “do a whole lot to protect communities, while the smaller projects are less effective. Basically, it all comes down to the volume of sand. If there’s a lot of sand you’re going to get more protection.”
Vaz said if the winds are strong enough anything can happen, as we found out during Superstorm Sandy.
“Nobody knows; it’s a roll of the dice. The east meets the west, the ocean meets the bay, the moon, the sun, so we play it by ear.”
He said the town is prepared with an evacuation plan, if necessary, and if the storm gets bad, police will be on the boardwalk “telling people not to go on the beach.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com