Blizzard Takes Big ‘Bites’ Out Of Sandwich Dunes
By: Mary Stanley
There is no question that Mother Nature left her calling card last weekend when the blizzard blew into town.
Stairs to the west of the boardwalk on Town Neck Beach were ripped from the dunes and strewn across the beach. Wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour and a storm surge that sent huge waves crashing onto shore leveled sections of sand dunes.
“The breach to the east of the boardwalk stairs is probably three times wider than it was before the storm,” Assistant Natural Resources Director David J. DeConto said.
“It’s awful. When I went to Town Neck Beach on Sunday, I had tears in my eyes,” said Paul W. Schrader, a member of the Trustees of Sandwich Beaches.
On Sunday morning, sand, rocks, seaweed, and dune grass littered the parking lot next to Hemisphere Restaurant. “There were large rocks there that were once on the floor of the ocean,” Mr. Schrader said.
Mr. DeConto said that the blizzard definitely created new problems for the town’s coastline.
“There have been multiple new cuts [in the dunes] from this storm and other previous existing cuts have gotten bigger or are now crossing one another,” he said. But, by far, the most dramatic cut in the dunes is the one just to the east of the boardwalk. “All along the beaches, it looks as if a big cleaver came in and just lopped off the dunes. In some cases, they were as high as 13 feet,” Mr. DeConto said. “
But what was lost on Town Neck Beach may be found further down on East Sandwich Beach.
“Right now, the best beach in town is East Sandwich Beach on North Shore Boulevard. The storm pushed all of the sand there,” he said.
Mr. Schrader worries about the future storms. “It’s going to get worse. It would take a miracle to fix it now. Time is running out quickly,” he said.
This week, building inspector Paul D. Spiro walked the beaches inspecting structures and tagging those which were off limits to the public. “Every stairway leading down to Town Neck Beach has been damaged or compromised,” Mr. Spiro said.
He has had to close off the boardwalk.
“I met with the town’s engineer and we tagged the boardwalk and the stairs. Those structures cannot be used until we make further assessments of the damage and remediation is completed,” Mr. Spiro said.
He said there were several areas along the boardwalk where some of the caps on top of the pilings were removed by the storm, creating a five- to six-inch gap between the piling and the bottom of the boardwalk. He said those will need to be repaired.
With the other two stairs near the boardwalk completely ripped out, Mr. Spiro also tagged the entrance to those structures.
He spent two days assessing damage to homes in the Salt Marsh Road area. As of Thursday, he has had to put up placards on three homes, limiting their use.
“A lot of this is a precautionary measure,” Mr. Spiro said.
He said that in most of the cases, it was decks, porches, and stairs that had been damaged.
In the cases where a deck or porch had been compromised, he said he put up a notice inside the house so that the door leading to that structure would not be used.
There was one ocean-front home on Salt Marsh Road, however, where the ocean had eaten away at the dune so badly that the house may have to be moved.
“You can now see the whole foundation with the footings exposed. The homeowner is going to have to do something to ensure that the foundation and footings are not compromised. In making the repairs, the homeowner would have to abide by the new building codes and that includes putting the house on pilings that are two feet above the dunes,” he said.
Mr. Spiro said none of the homes were deemed completely uninhabitable. “I tagged them for restricted use. The homeowners can go inside them but they can’t stay there,” he said.
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