Hurricane Sandy might have dealt South Florida only a glancing blow, but the monster storm left its mark on the region's beaches.
From Miami Beach to northern Palm Beach County, widespread beach erosion can be seen in many coastal communities. Palm Beach County environmental director Dan Bates says parts of the county unprotected by the natural buffer of the Bahamas got hit hard.
"Once the storm got north of the Bahamas, those big waves that it was generating and the storm surge that went along with it hit the beaches," says Bates, "especially the northern part of Palm Beach County."
In Broward, county environmental official Ken Banks, a beach erosion expert, sees the greatest impact in northern Fort Lauderdale.
"Mostly because the beach is somewhat lower there. The elevation's not as high. And there's no protective dune, so that when the waves run up, there's nothing to stop it from overtopping the beach and running over into the highway," says Banks.
Although Miami-Dade beaches were spared the worst of the storm's destructive waves, some stretches of Miami Beach, Sunny Isles and Bal Harbour are now worn away. "One thing that was fortunate is that we just completed a project with the Army Corps of Engineers last month, where we renourished a lot of the three areas that were the worst, says county environmental administrator Brian Flynn. "And so, if we didn't have that sand in place, those areas probably would have been in bad shape."
Environmental officials in all three counties say the storm's effect on South Florida's coastline reinforces the need to keep rebuilding eroded beaches with fresh sand. In Palm Beach County alone, Hurricane Sandy did an estimated 20-million-dollars worth of damage to the county's beaches.