Coastal Hazards: How Big a Wave Would it Take to Demolish a Coastal Building?
Coastal hazards along America's 7,000 miles of shoreline threaten nearly half of the U.S. population. What are the risks? What can be done to protect our infrastructure? Spencer Rogers from North Carolina Sea Grant explains.
FORT MYERS -The United States has more than 7,000 miles of shoreline that lay at risk from wind, waves and flooding related to hurricanes and tropical storms. These coastal hazards can result in loss of life and billions of dollars in damage to public and private property.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than half of the U.S. population lives in coastal areas that are susceptible to coastal hazards. Although some coastal hazards cannot be prevented, steps can be taken to improve the resiliency of people and property along the shore.
According to Spencer Rogers of North Carolina Sea Grant, beach erosion is the most significant type of coastal hazard. Rogers explains there are four different types of erosion - seasonal, long-term, storm-induced and inlet.
"Waves dominate the beach and are a major cause of beach erosion and damage to coastal development," Rogers said. "It's all interrelated - the more erosion that occurs on a beach, the bigger the waves get; the bigger the waves get, the higher the damage to buildings. The beach and dunes are the first line of protection."
Experts such as Rogers say building and maintaining dunes, as well as planting vegetation, can be very effective in treating some types of erosion.
"Long-term erosion is the hardest to manage," Rogers said. "The key to managing other hazards is with good construction."
New construction codes call f or building foundations deep enough to tolerate anticipated erosion rates; constructing buildings on higher pilings to allow waves to wash underneath buildings instead of hitting them; and designing beach ground-level walls to break away, rather than crumble and bring the rest of the structure down with it.
"It only takes a 1-1/2 foot breaking wave to destroy a wall that is designed for 125 mph winds," Rogers said. "That means a 1-1/2 foot wave can destroy an entire house. It might seem shocking that such a small wave could have so much force, but it's a reality we must deal with responsibly."
(This information is provided by the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association.)
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