As Hurricane Matthew approached, officials in area beach communities prepared to see beach erosion but were counting on continued beach nourishment efforts to lessen the impacts.
“Based on information from the National Weather Service there are two definite impacts – a lot of rain and there will be beach erosion,” said North Topsail Beach Assistant Town Manager Carin Faulkner.
While the north end of the island remains the most vulnerable for erosion, Faulkner said the Phase V shoreline restoration project completed in June 2015 helped to build up the beach at the south end of town, helping to reduce potential storm impacts along the shoreline.
Hurricane Joaquin followed soon after the project was completed and caused notable damage, with the worst of it at the north end of town and outside the nourished beach.
Faulkner said a “dune push” earlier this year helped to restore about 25,000 feet of damaged dune system.
She said work included areas that sustained 25 percent or more dune damage as a result of the previous hurricane, which brought extreme high tides, erosion and coastal flooding.
Faulkner said they monitor the condition of the shoreline via video so that they have footage before and after a storm to determine how much damage was done to the shoreline. She said they were not able to get video last week but have footage from after tropical storm Hermine to use as a baseline.
Faulkner said they can’t hold back Mother Nature but the monitoring does help them track the extent of damage and where it occurs.
Along Topsail Island, the northernmost tip near New River Inlet is the most prone to erosion.
A wall of sandbags stretches along the shoreline in front of beachfront properties at the north end. Faulkner said they closely watch the area prone to overwash and coastal flooding but the town doesn’t do any maintenance or work to the sandbag wall prior to a storm.
“We keep an eye on that area because it is more vulnerable to flooding,” she said.
According to the Saturday morning briefing by the National Weather Service forecast office in Newport, which includes Onslow County in its coverage area, North Topsail Beach is among the most vulnerable areas for erosion impacts, with the peak impacts expected Saturday night.
“The Crystal Coast could have some of the worst erosion. North Topsail Beach and further north along Onslow County Beaches will be especially vulnerable to erosion and some oceanfront surge flooding,” the briefing states.
Further north along Bogue Banks, Carteret County Shore Protection Manager Greg “Rudi” Rudolph said they are likely to lose sand along the beaches due the storm but the long-time beach nourishment projects along Bogue Banks have helped to lessen the potential impacts to the dune system and beachfront infrastructure and property.
“Especially with storms like this where it’s not a direct hit, we should come out OK,” Rudolph said.
Rudolph said the storm is forecasted to weaken some at it passes off the coast of Carteret County and could be downgraded to a tropical storm as its off Cape Lookout area.
He said the storm will be south of Bogue Banks around 2 a.m. Sunday, which will coincide with high tide.
While Rudolph is hopeful the beachfront will fare OK during the storm is forecasted to bring notable coastal flooding.
“All of the rain and flooding is more of a river and sound-side issue,” he said.
But the beach impacts were already showing.
Rudolph said data from offshore buoys were showing wave activity that had jumped from 8-foot waves Friday to 12-foot waves on Saturday.
Faulkner said surf conditions were bad at North Topsail.
“It was pretty rough out there all day,” Faulkner said of surf conditions on Friday.