Mid-November storm caused significant erosion, but officials say Mother Nature, nourishment projects should help rebuild the beaches
PENDER COUNTY -- Earlier this month, a strong nor’easter tore into the region’s east-facing beaches, washing away sand and gouging large escarpments out along many areas -- especially on Topsail Island.
But while the damage might look serious, officials said they expect most of the sand to eventually come back onshore. Beach nourishment projects that were already in the works also should help heal the beaches still stinging from the pounding they took from Hurricane Florence in 2018.
Michael Rose, manager of Topsail Beach, said the Nov. 16-17 storm’s strong winds and driving rain cost his beach town a good bit of sand, but stopped short of doing more harm.
“The waves did batter the beach somewhat,” he said this week, “but we didn’t have any damage that I know of in terms of lost crossovers or damage to property. We did have some beach erosion and some escarpment on the beach itself. The good news is that our (dune) system did what it is supposed to do.”
Unlike named storms like Florence and this year’s Hurricane Dorian, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) won’t step in in this instance to fund repairs. But that hardly matters, Rose said, because the cleanup cost to the town is about two days’ work from public works employees.
Topsail Beach has a dredging and beach restoration project scheduled to begin early next year that will go a long way toward repairing damage.
“Not that we ever want to see the type of storm we did, but at least it happened before we started that project,” Rose said.
Surf City recovery
Topsail’s damage and its recovery are mimicked in neighboring Surf City, where Mayor Doug Medlin said that while the beach lost sand, it didn’t get carried away -- or at least not very far.
Surf City has, he said, just added a new sand bar a little off shore, and the action of the Atlantic will return some of that material over time. Winds from the east and southeast -- not so rare this time of year -- will help push that sand back to the strand, too, he said.
The Pender beach town also has an ongoing project that is adding sand to the beach, sand that is being trucked in as part of a long-term project that began last spring and was halted during the tourist -- and sea turtle nesting -- season.
“This hauling has nothing to do with the storm,” Medlin said, a project that started again on Nov. 15 and will run through about the middle of January.
After that, Medlin said, “we will start on a beach nourishment project in February or March. That is going to be the biggest thing. We did lose some sand, but we did not lose nearly what I thought we might given the wind and the rain we had.”
Hurricane season ends Saturday, Nov. 30.
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