Observations of the Influence of Regional Beach Dynamics on the Impacts of Storm Waves on the Connecticut Coast During Hurricanes Irene and Sandy
The Connecticut shoreline is one of the most intensively developed in the country. In many locations, development has relied on the buffering capacity of broad beaches for protection against storms. Much of this development is at risk due to an insufficient understanding of regional beach dynamics. The coast is commonly regarded as “protected” by the presence of Long Island. Nonetheless, Irene and Sandy imposed significant property losses on coastal cities. The most severe damages were due to wave impact in areas with narrow beaches. Small differences (as little as 21 m) in beach width proved to be significant during these storms. Sheltering by Long Island does not prevent coastal erosion during local storms. In the long run, it does prevent the rebuilding of the beach during fair weather by limiting the energy available for shoreward transport. This dynamic makes the beaches naturally erosive and their buffering capacity transient at best.