The Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on Fire Island

Flooding on the streets of Fire Island.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2013, the historic hurricane wrecked many parts of Fire Island. Fire Island was able to cleanup from debris and damage. Much of Fire Island was saved by the sand dunes, protecting 4,500 homes. The tallest waves reached about 9.6 meters high with damaging winds of 90 mph. Without the use of Fire Island’s strategic sand dunes for a majority of the Island, the Island would have been devastated. Many more businesses, homes and property would have been completely destroyed. Unfortunately, the parts that were not blocked by sand dunes encountered a lot of damage.

 

The breach made by Hurricane Sandy.

The storm caused two major breaches, and Fire Island was cut in two. One of the breaches was in Smith Point County Park. The other breach was within the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness.

There were originally 4 breaches on fire island, but two of the breaches were labeled as non-threatening “wash-overs”. One of the critical breaches is in the Smith County Point area. The photo on the right is a breach in the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness in Old Inlet.

 

 

Houses and businesses were devastated and under water. Fire Island suffered tremendous damage from the high winds and flooding of the storm. Waves at its peak read 9.6 meters from a wave buoy off fire Island. Extensive beach erosion caused half of Fire Island’s beaches and sand dunes to be washed away, losing 54 percent of the island’s volume. This left the island more vulnerable to winter storms. During the upcoming winter, Fire Island shifted inland by 189 feet. Only 18 percent of the island’s volume before Sandy had returned by the Spring.

 

Shipwreck on Fire Island. Photo Credit: Cheryl Hapke / USGS.

Hurricane Sandy is considered the most devastating storm since 1938. Following Superstorm Sandy, a 90 year old shipwreck on fire island was uncovered 4 miles east of Davis Park. Although the ship has not been identified, the Long Island Maritime Museum claimed it to be a post-Civil War Cargo vessel that had been built before 1880. However, the public affairs specialist for the National park, Paula Valentine, claims it to be the 90-year old shipwreck Bessie White. As it is rare to see a shipwreck exposed from a storm, the erosion from Sandy caused a majority of the ship to come ashore. Although it may take time to learn more about the ship, unveiling a treasure like this on Fire Island is something you don’t see everyday.

 

Fire Island Coming Together

The re-opened Palms Hotel.

Stories from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy varied from devastating tales of floodwater destroying neighborhoods and businesses to uplifting stories about communities coming together to help one another. Despite the tragedy of the storm, there was a bright side. Fire Island truly came together as a community to help rebuild the damage.

The community helped to bring Fire Island back to the bustling place it used to be. Municipal officials, residents of the Island and local business owners all helped out to bring the island back to what it is today. Federal assistance also helped Fire Island to rebuild and be protected from future storms.

One touching story of hope after Fire Island was a story of two business owners seeing light in through the dark times of the storm. Many of the businesses were forced to close, but Laura Mercogliano and her husband Chris sought to open the doors to their hotel that summer in 2013. They didn’t want the storm to impact their plans. As some saw hurricane Sandy as a loss, the Mercogliano saw it as a potential for new plans to unveil with their hotel. Their hotel called The Palms Hotel, unveiled their new Presidential Penthouse Suite (with 1200 sq. ft) that summer.

Since Fire Island is a barrier beach, it is often rebuilding itself over and over. Fire Island was able to go through the storm which only made the community stronger. Since fire Island was able to absorb the impact of a large area of the Island with the sand dunes, residents decided to refinance another sand dune project just a few years ago. Future storms may happen, but Fire Island will always pick itself back up again.