Early Beach Assessment Reveals Moderate Storm Damage

Early Beach Assessment Reveals Moderate Storm Damage
The Inlet beach and pier are pictured Monday during the nor’easter. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – While a final assessment has not yet been completed, it appears Ocean City’s beaches and dune system fared well throughout the storm.

Hurricane Ian did its worst in Florida last week before turning north and heading to the resort area. A typical hurricane, or remnants of a hurricane, pass through the area quickly, but coupled with a classic nor’easter, the storm lingered over the resort area for several days.

The storm, which by midweek had not entirely cleared out of the area, brought heavy surf, beach erosion and flooding of the streets through much of the downtown area for several days. Sand piled up in drifts on the Boardwalk and the Inlet area, which would have been host to the inaugural Oceans Calling music festival, was under water for much of the five-day-plus storm.

However, an early assessment of the erosion of the beaches in Ocean City revealed the damage was minimal and will likely repair itself over time without any emergency mitigation required. Last fall and early winter, the combined federal, state and local beach replenishment project was completed, and the resort’s beaches went into hurricane season in fairly good shape.

City Manager Terry McGean said this week it was a little too early to assess the actual damage to the beaches in Ocean City, but the early prognosis is positive. McGean said a further evaluation would be completed when the storm subsided and the tides returned to somewhat normal, but he was confident no major mitigation efforts would be needed.

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“It’s still too early to tell the full extent of the beach damage,” he said. “Right now, I would put erosion as moderate, but we really need the tides to come down for a better look. There is no dune damage, so at this point, I don’t see the need for any emergency repairs.”

At the close of Monday’s meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out the remnants of Hurricane Ian morphed into a nor’easter for the resort and the mid-Atlantic region. Meehan said town officials were monitoring Hurricane Ian late last week and did not anticipate it turning into a full-fledged multiple-day storm.

“We’re disappointed the hurricane had such an effect on us,” he said. “As we followed the track at the end of last week, we were told it was going to blow right by us and be out of here quickly. Like so often happens, when a storm turns into a nor’easter it can decide to stay out there and pound us for a few days. That’s unfortunate and I hope everybody is okay. There is flooding downtown, and you can see it out there tonight.”

During Monday’s meeting, flood waters on downtown streets and around City Hall continued to rise in what turned out to be a continuing problem for the resort into midweek. Meehan said Monday’s high tide, which arrived right around the time of the meeting, was likely the peak of the storm.

“This is the high point, I believe,” he said. “The high tide right now is probably as high as it is going to get, and it didn’t reach the critical surge point that we were all watching so closely.”

Throughout the storm, the beaches at Assateague State Park remained closed and the Over-Sand Vehicle Zone at Assateague Island National Seashore remained closed. Certain areas of Florida were most devastated by Hurricane Ian and will likely take months to return to some semblance of normal. Meehan said the situation in Florida is an example of why an oceanfront community such as Ocean City prepares constantly for potential storms.

“It just shows when you look at what happened in Florida, it can happen anywhere,” he said. “It certainly teaches us you have to listen to what the officials say. When you’re told to evacuate, you need to evacuate because you just never know. It’s ironic that the focal point where it hit was Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. I go to Sanibel every year, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be going back there for a few years. Our thoughts and prayers really do go out to those in Florida and everyone else who was affected by the storm.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.