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Superstorm Sandy

Study: Sandy caused severe erosion on Fire Island

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A) Leveled beaches, dunes ; B) damaged homes in Davis Park; C) leveled dunes, overwash sheets by the lighthouse; D) breach at Old Inlet. (Photos via USGS) A) Leveled beaches, dunes ; B) damaged homes in Davis Park; C) leveled dunes, overwash sheets by the lighthouse; D) breach at Old Inlet. (Photos via USGS)

A new U.S. Geological Survey study shows more than half of Fire Island's beaches and sand dunes were lost during Superstorm Sandy.

In a study released Tuesday, the agency said the beaches and dunes lost 54.4 percent of their pre-storm volume, and the dunes were washed over along 46.6 percent of the island. One geologist said the loss of shoreline has changed the island's shape.

"The beaches and dunes of the island were severely eroded during Sandy," said Cheryl Hapke, a USGS research geologist and lead author of the study. "The island was breached in three locations, and there was widespread damage and destruction of coastal infrastructure, including private residences."

The storm slammed the island very hard, leaving it much more vulnerable to winter storms.

The majority of the island is part of Fire Island National Seashore, managed by the National Park Service. The western end is part of Robert Moses State Park, while the eastern end is a county park.

Besides the barrier island's recreational and economic importance, it is a vital first line of defense for the south shore of Long Island as well as a sanctuary to numerous species of wildlife.

Most of the lost sand was carried offshore by waves and storm surge, USGS said.

"Overall, Hurricane Sandy profoundly impacted the morphology of Fire Island and resulted in an extremely low elevation, low relief configuration that has left the barrier island vulnerable to future storms," the report's abstract reads. "The coastal system subsequently began to show signs of recovery, and although the beach is likely to experience continued recovery in the form of volume gains, the dunes will take years to rebuild."

The Associated Press/WNYW

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