SURF CITY — As a strong Nor’easter moves south of the Cape Fear region, the barrier island town of Surf City is left with escarpments along the dunes and recently built berms wiped out from extreme high tides.
Surf City councilwoman Teresa Batts, who also serves on the Topsail Island Shoreline Protection Commission, said the beaches of Topsail Island suffered varying degrees of erosion. In Surf City, she said about five dune breaches occurred in a stretch between the 1300 and 1700 blocks of North Shore Drive, and three-foot escarpments were seen in several places.
“We hate to see Nor’easters come through, especially as we’re trying to move forward with protecting our oceanfront homes and our island in general,” Batts said.
The town was performing a sand haul to rebuild dunes along properties deemed “imminent critical” before receiving a cease-and-desist in mid-March from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality after an oceanfront property owner complained of pebbles in the sand. Town manager Ashley Loftis said at the time that the work was stopped because the state found 18 pebbles in 15 feet of sand.
The work has been delayed through the sea turtle nesting season and was scheduled to resume Monday, until the weekend’s storm hit. Parks and Recreation Director Chad Merritt said the town’s contracted beach engineer, Chris Gibson, is currently assessing damages to the beach to reevaluate the project, but expected to move forward as planned once normal tide levels returned.
Just before noon Monday, the storm was still pushing in a severe high tide. Sue Andrews lives in an oceanfront home along the 1400 block of North Shore Drive, where several of the dune breaches occurred.
“We lost all of the new sand berm that the town built in March,” Andrews said. “Saturday we lost half of it, and by early Sunday afternoon, it was all gone.”
She said the low tide was where the high tide usually is.
“And the high tide keeps coming,” she said Monday afternoon. “I was up in the house looking out the window this weekend and saw a full staircase float on by.”
Strong southwest-driven currents were pushing debris from beach access stairs and beach decks over the weekend, and some debris was still seen scattered along the beach as the tide lowered Monday afternoon.
Andrews discussed the town’s ongoing battle against storms during hurricane season and the Nor’easters that come in late fall and winter.
“It’s hard, but you also live on the coast, so you have to be ready for something like that too. I was hoping to keep the sand berm a little longer than November,” she said before laughing.
She said it was the second time in three years that the dune near her home had breached due to a Nor’easter, and she was thankful for the town hauling in sand to rebuild the berms.
“Because without that, these homes inland would all be in jeopardy,” she said. “The ocean giveth and the ocean taketh away.”
Further south at the Surf City Ocean Pier, the pier’s manager Vinita Gass said she was working all weekend watching the storm bring strong winds and rain, and pushing a lot of debris like steps from beach access stairs bumping into the pier.
“We started noticing the dunes were being eaten away,” Gass said. “Of course we lost more dunes [Monday]. This morning before high tide, we could see it was taking the dunes away.”
Merritt said the full extent of erosion and damages to the emergency berm and dune system will be known after normal high tides return, as it was difficult Monday to access the beach. He said the town didn’t receive any major damage to public beach accesses, and trucks were currently removing debris that accumulated from the storm.
See more pictures of the high tides and damages to Surf City’s dune system below:
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com or (970) 413-3815