SAND CASTLES AND RAILROAD TRACKS

A little child, on a beach vacation, was building a sand castle down near the shoreline.  Now, it might have really looked like a castle or, perhaps more like a fort.  Well, the very next day, when the child returned to the beach, they looked for the castle, where it should have been–but, they could not find it.  So, they proceeded to re-build it, bigger and better than ever.  On the third day, once again, the castle was gone.  So, the child realized that…perhaps a sand castle was just not meant to be in that spot on the beach.  Hmmm.

I grew up in the Atlantic City, NJ. Area, and currently live in the South Florida; so, I am well aware of changes in the shoreline, from high tide-to low and additionally the pull of a full moon.  The force of the wind with major storms, especially Hurricanes, can be quite devastating to beachside towns.

It has been one year since Mega-Storm Hurricane Sandy wrecked havoc up-and-down the East Coast, from Florida to Nova Scotia.  The actual winds from Sandy were not especially high, as hurricanes go; however, it’s shear size, and the storm surge being at high tide, and during a full moon, just added to the problem.  But, there might be other factors, such as the layout of streets, that only the trained observer could notice.

I saw David Gessner being interviewed on TV about a week ago and found his recent story, in Outside Magazine, quite fascinating, http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/nature/Down-by-the-Seaside-With-Dr-Doom-Geologist-Orrin-Pilkey.html?page=all.  In Outside, Mr. Gessner writes about a trip that he made with Orrin Pikey, a Coastal Geologist and Professor Emeritus at Duke University.  Professor Pikey is affectionately known as “The Prophet” for his early campaign against re-building on “barrier islands” (and other low-lying areas) and accurately predicting specific problem areas–and causes.

Besides the obvious–wind, tides, full moon, etc.–the damage that Sandy caused was also due to all of these factors simultaneously coming together for the storm surge that flooded towns, disrupted power and re-claimed considerable amounts of it’s shoreline territory.  But, there’s more. Professor Pikey’s very specific comments about parts of New York City and New Jersey might be especially alarming to some coastal residents.

Read the linked article to learn more.  I have always wondered why we spend the money, dredging-up sand to replenish beaches, repairing roads and buildings, only to wonder if they will survive the next “Big One”.  And, in time, we do it all over again.

At the same time, while many people try to deflect or minimize storms, Professor Pikey’s approach is to “Abandon”.  He says that re-building where you know that Nature will come again is like Building on the Railroad Tracks.  Maybe that Small Child was right in realizing the inevitable when they stopped re-building the Sand Castle.

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